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Alabama Football: Clutch Play by Hurts, Ridley Keeps Tide Undefeated

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Alabama Football: Clutch Play by Hurts, Ridley Keeps Tide Undefeated

In a weekend full of surprises around the college football landscape, with Georgia losing their top spot at Auburn and Notre Dame losing at Miami in a blowout, there was a different attitude in the air amongst the fans in Starkville, Mississippi, as #2 Alabama travelled into Davis-Wade Stadium to face the 16th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs. Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen was 0-8 coming into the game against the Tide in his tenure at MSU, but this game felt different. The Bulldogs always seem to have a team that can beat Alabama on a good day, but the Bulldogs had nothing to lose, and they certainly played like it.

The Bulldogs came out fast, dominating the line of scrimmage against a banged-up Bama defense missing a host of linebackers, and hopped out to an early 7-0 lead on a touchdown run from one yard by Aeris Williams, who led MSU with 98 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. The Tide responded on the next drive, hitting a big pass play to Calvin Ridley to set up a Jalen Hurts touchdown run that tied the game.

The Bulldogs then took the ball straight down the field, running up an 11-play, 73-yard drive that chewed up nearly six-and-a-half minutes of the first half clock, punctuated by Williams’ second rushing touchdown, this time from five yards out. Again, the Tide responded, hitting another big pass play to Calvin Ridley, who racked up 171 receiving yards on five receptions and made multiple big plays in big situations for the Tide. The short drive was capped off with a one-yard touchdown run by Josh Jacobs, again tying the game up heading into halftime.

The Tide came out quickly in the second half, moving the ball 66 yards in three rushing plays before stalling out in the red zone. Andy Pappanastos banged through a 29-yard field goal, which gave the Tide a three-point lead early in the third quarter.

Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald led his team back onto the field after that momentum shift and immediately reversed it, leading the Bulldogs on another long touchdown drive, this time covering 69 yards on 13 plays and chewing up 6:38 off of the game clock, which culminated in a Fitzgerald two-yard touchdown run to give MSU the lead once again at 21-17.

Following a three-and-out by the Tide offense, the Bulldogs again drove the length of the field, but were forced to into a Jace Christmann 25-yard field goal to increase the margin to a seven-point game. The Tide responded, which was a common theme in the game, going 10 plays and 82 yards, including a huge fourth-down conversion by Jalen Hurts, who scrambled for 13 yards on fourth-and-4 to keep the drive alive, which was finished off by Damien Harris running into the end-zone from 17 yards out to tie the game at 24.

The Bulldogs got a shorter field due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on freshman backup left tackle Alex Leatherwood, who came onto the field with his helmet off after the touchdown, but the Bulldogs couldn’t capitalize on the short field, as they were forced to punt from the Alabama side of the field. The Tide came back out and drove the football down the field using Bo Scarborough, who is their “finisher” back. The drive stalled out around the 25-yard line, which forced out Pappanastos to kick another field goal to take the lead with about two minutes left. Pappanastos’ kick hit the left upright, which kept the game tied and gave the Bulldogs all the momentum.

However, with the longer drives that Alabama was able to sustain in the second half, the Bama defense was able to catch their breath and make one more stop on Fitzgerald and MSU, forcing another punt and giving Jalen Hurts the football back with 1:09 left in the game. Hurts then tactically drove the Tide down the field, hitting pass plays to Cam Sims, Calvin Ridley twice, one of which was a huge third-and-15 conversion for 31 yards, and finally, the game-winning touchdown to freshman Devonta Smith, who came into the game with four career catches and one touchdown, which came against Vanderbilt on September 23rd. Hurts threw for 242 yards on 10 completions with the one touchdown at the very end of the game that won it for the Tide, as well as 40 rushing yards and a touchdown.

The Tide outgained the Bulldogs 444-330 in the game, with a passing margin of 242-158 and a rushing margin of 202-172. Alabama plays Mercer next week for senior day, with an 11 AM central time kickoff on the SEC Network, while Mississippi State travels to Arkansas for an 11 AM central time kickoff on CBS.

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