No. 1 sunk by surging Tide: Alabama beats Mississippi State 25-20

photo Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott (15) tries to jump over Mississippi State offensive lineman Dillon Day (63) for yardage but is stopped by Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) and Jarran Reed (90) during their game on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The biggest game in Mississippi State football history turned into another day at the office for Alabama inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The Crimson Tide did not roll through No. 1 Mississippi State on a brisk afternoon but used a pair of Blake Sims scrambles and a pair of second-half interceptions to turn back the Bulldogs 25-20.

Alabama is sure to move up in the College Football Playoff rankings after being No. 5 last week, and the Crimson Tide can win the Southeastern Conference West Division title with a win over unraveling Auburn on Nov. 29.

"This was a big win," Alabama junior receiver Amari Cooper said after catching eight passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. "We have to play each and every week like it's the playoffs. If you lose, then you go home."

Alabama improved to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in SEC play with its seventh consecutive victory over the Bulldogs under coach Nick Saban. Mississippi State fell to 9-1 and 5-1, losing for the first time in four games as the nation's top-ranked team.

The Bulldogs racked up 428 yards to Alabama's 335, but most of their output came after they fell behind 19-0 in the second quarter.

"Give Alabama credit, because they did the things you need to do to win," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "They were plus-three in turnover ratio and won the kicking game, and those things really make a difference in big games."

As does Sims, as he has proven time and time again this season.

With Alabama nursing a 19-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Crimson Tide embarked on a 15-play, 76-yard drive that was capped by a 7-yard T.J. Yeldon touchdown run that made it 25-13 with 8:09 remaining. Sims converted a third-and-8 from midfield into a first down with a 10-yard scramble to the 40 and three plays later converted a third-and-10 with an 11-yard scramble to the 29.

Sims had a key third-quarter scramble in Alabama's only second-half scoring drive in the 34-20 win at Tennessee late last month and seems to be savoring third-and-long opportunities.

"I always feel good about third downs, because that's what we work the most on in practice," Sims said. "Coach (Lane) Kiffin prepares us so great during the week that we know we're going to convert every third down. We have great wide receivers, and defensive backs have to stay on them, which leaves me one-on-one with the linebackers."

Mississippi State responded to Alabama's touchdown with a 10-play, 54-yard drive that was snuffed when safety Landon Collins intercepted a Dak Prescott pass at the Tide's 17-yard line. Prescott's pass was tipped at the line by noseguard A'Shawn Robinson, and Mississippi State didn't score again until 15 seconds remained.

"We were in man-to-man coverage, and I was playing outside leverage on the receiver," Collins said. "He was running the slant and I was dropping down, and all of a sudden I saw the ball tipped by A'Shawn, and I just broke on it."

Defenses dominated early, with Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest tackling MSU tailback Josh Robinson for a safety midway through the first quarter for the first points of the game. After the free kick, the Crimson Tide drove 43 yards in 11 plays before settling on Adam Griffith's 36-yard field goal to go up 5-0.

Mississippi State's first trek into Alabama territory took place early in the second quarter but ended abruptly when Prescott was intercepted by free safety Nick Perry at the Tide 22.

Yards were difficult to come by until midway through the second quarter, when Alabama zipped 61 yards in five plays and took a 12-0 lead on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Sims to Cooper. Igniting that drive was a 39-yard pass from Sims to Jalston Fowler down the middle of the field to the Mississippi State 26.

The Bulldogs couldn't move down 12-0 and had to punt, and their deficit quickly grew to 19-0 when Sims found Cooper for 50 yards to the MSU 1, setting up a short scoring run by Derrick Henry.

Mississippi State got on the board with three seconds before halftime on a 23-yard Evan Sobiesk field goal, but the Bulldogs had driven 70 yards in 14 plays and got to the Alabama 1 before a procedure penalty. The Bulldogs opened the second half with a 67-yard drive, and that ended with a 32-yard Sobiesk field goal to make it 19-6.

The Bulldogs gained 167 yards to Alabama's 44 in the third quarter and pulled within 19-13 in the first minute of the fourth quarter on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to Fred Ross.

"On offense, we have to do a little bit better job of creating balance and controlling the football against a team like this," Saban said. "They had the ball for 88 plays, which is too many, in my opinion. We didn't get enough third-down stops, they converted three fourth downs and we also have to control the ball on offense.

"But that was one of the greatest drives in Alabama history, probably, to go down there and make it a two-score game in the fourth quarter."

Alabama will play Western Carolina this week but won't rush into preparation. Saban said he will give the team Monday off after defeating the physical pair of LSU and Mississippi State.

The Tide's win Saturday was their 14th in a row in Bryant-Denny, and it was the first in which they didn't win by at least three touchdowns.

"For us, this was personal," Tide senior center Ryan Kelly said. "This was at home, and we always play well at home."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.