For the first time this season against a Southeastern Conference opponent, it looked like the Alabama Crimson Tide finally put together a full 60-minute game.
After a disappointing loss last weekend to LSU that knocked the No. 12 Tide out of contention for the national championship game, the team was able to bounce back and defeat the No. 19 Mississippi State Bulldogs in front of a home crowd.
“I think the players showed that they have some pride in terms of trying to develop an identity for our team,” said head coach Nick Saban. “I’m not sure the consistency that we’ve played with throughout the year is necessarily what we want, and I think our players are aware of that.
“We wanted to play a 60-minute game today, and even though we finished a little sloppy today, I was pleased with the effort, toughness and intensity that we had.”
With both the offense and the defense producing important plays, the Tide was able to put together a game that showed intensity and discipline in both halves.
Offensively, Alabama was able to produce three big plays from three different players that each resulted in a touchdown.
Two of the big plays involved players switching roles. While one of plays was a running touchdown by wide receiver Julio Jones, the other was a receiving touchdown by running back Mark Ingram.
“Earlier this week [Jones and I] were talking about how I need to get a receiving touchdown and he needed to get a running touchdown, so it was quite a coincidence that it happened,” Ingram said.
Saban said producing big plays was key to scoring the amount of points needed to make the game successful.
“That’s what we want to do,” he said. “We’ve got some guys who can make explosive plays, and we want to put the ball in their hands to give them the opportunity to do it.”
On the defensive side of the ball, not only was the running defense effective, the passing defense was also very successful in pressuring MSU’s quarterback, Chris Relf, who went 8-of-16 and also took five sacks.
“Pass rush is a big key to the game,” said defensive lineman Damion Square, who got two of the sacks on Relf. “Everybody know that here at Alabama we can stop the run. We work every week at trying to convert from run to pass. You have to get a rush on the guy. That way, the secondary won’t be holding the guy for eight seconds and things like that.”
Then in the secondary, safety Robert Lester was also able to pull down two interceptions to give the offense the ball back. With those interceptions, Lester now leads the SEC in interceptions, totaling seven for the season.
“I think it’s just been being where I need to be, executing our game plan and making a play,” Lester said. “The quarterback happened to make bad throws, and I capitalized on making a big play.”
With big efforts on both sides of the ball, Alabama improved to 8-2 overall and 5-2 in the SEC going into a short week with the next game on Thursday. Though the team was able to put together one of its most impressive performances of the season, Lester said there’s still more the team can do.
“We want to be the best that we can be,” he said. “Losing two games, that shows that we’re not where we need to be, so we need to keep working, keep better and keep playing good.”