Alabama 'D' leads the way in shutout of MSU

By CODY ESTREMERA, For the Eagle
Posted 11/11/18

TUSCALOOSA — While Alabama’s offense has received the most attention this season, its defense has morphed into a monster. It dominated for the second straight week, shutting out Mississippi State 24-0 on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

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Alabama 'D' leads the way in shutout of MSU

Posted

TUSCALOOSA — While Alabama’s offense has received the most attention this season, its defense has morphed into a monster. It dominated for the second straight week, shutting out Mississippi State 24-0 on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“Guys have made improvement all year long,” coach Nick Saban said. “We’ve practiced better as the season has gone on. The preparation has been better, and I think that has contributed to us playing better. We’re making fewer mental errors. Guys are playing together more.”

The last time Alabama had consecutive shutouts was 2012, while the last time it forced back-to-back shutouts against SEC teams was 1980. The Tide harassed Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald throughout the game, finishing with five sacks and three hurries. Six different players sacked Fitzgerald.

“We wanted to make him uncomfortable, get him out of his zone,” linebacker Dylan Moses said.

On their 13 drives of the game, the Bulldogs finished with six three-and-outs and had three drives to result in negative yardage.

The biggest contribution to forcing six three-and-outs was stopping the run. The Bulldogs averaged 213.6 yards on the ground before playing Alabama. They ran for just 44 yards, 38 of which came on a Kylin Hill run.

After running for an average of 92.3 yards a game, Fitzgerald finished with negative 23 yards.

While putting up 304 yards of offense is usually a successful total for most teams, it was a season low for Alabama by a wide margin, as its previous low was 516.

Its struggle started with the passing game. The Crimson Tide, which averaged 341.5 yards a game through the air, threw for just 164 yards.

Alabama’s pass protection, which was the offensive line’s strongest area this season, struggled. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was sacked four times and hurried three more. He had been sacked only six times in the Crimson Tide’s previous nine games.

“It’s our quarterback,” offensive tackle Jedrick Wills said. “We need to protect him at all times, keep him clean. We can definitely do that better.”

The Crimson Tide’s offense started off fast. It scored touchdowns on its first two drives fairly easily, led by the running game. Of its 150 yards in the first quarter, 83 came on the ground.

Alabama finished with 142 rushing yards, led by junior running back Josh Jacobs, who finished with a game high 97 yards on 20 attempts.

“(He) really did a good job, especially at the end of the game,” Saban said. “Josh was a demon running it on a couple of those runs. I was really impressed with the way he played today.”

For the second week in a row, the Crimson Tide ran the ball to finish the game the way Saban wanted. It went 61 yards on 10 plays, before being stopped at the one-yard line. Tagovailoa left the game late in the third quarter after taking a hit to the front of his knee. Saban said he could have gone back into the game if necessary.

Left guard Deonte Brown went down with turf toe, which Saban said would be more of an issue for him concerning next week’s game.

Alabama returns to Bryant-Denny on Nov. 17 for its game against Citadel.