Anytime a team gets a 31-point victory, it feels like a great achievement. Alabama over Mississippi State, that’s what Tide fans wanted. Never has that 31-point victory felt like a huge team loss more than last Saturday for the No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide. On Saturday, the Tide looked to rebound hugely from their home LSU loss by dominating the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Alabama was able to beat the Bulldogs in Starkville, Mississippi with a solid 38-7 score but they encountered many injuries in the process. Among the injured was quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The injury is likely a big blow to Alabama’s College Football Playoff chances.
Alabama Over Mississippi State
Tide Lose Tagovailoa and Explosive Offense for the Year
Before the game, there were questions around the questionable playing status of Tagovailoa and his high ankle sprain. Tagovailoa and the Tide nation knew that he would play to the best of his potential on Saturday. He didn’t experience any major discomfort with his ankle during the first half against the Bulldogs. Tagovailoa threw the ball great and moved well in and out of the pocket. Fans were hesitant to keep playing Tagovailoa up by 28 points with three and a half minutes left in the first half. Despite Mac Jones looking like he was about to enter the game to end the first half, it looked like Tagovailoa lobbied to coach Saban to be put back in. Coach Saban insists that Tagovailoa needed to practice a two-minute drill to end his performance for the day.
On third down, Tagovailoa was quickly pressured and had to scramble. Instead of throwing the ball, he tried to extend the play for a first down. Tagovailoa was tackled to the ground by two Bulldog defenders. There were speculations that he reinjured his ankle but it was worse than Alabama feared. Tagovailoa experienced a dislocated hip as well as a hip fractured. He is now out for the season. Before the injury, he threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns on 14 completions (out of 14 attempts). Without Tagovailoa on the field against Mississippi State, Alabama was only able to score three points.
Two Main Defensive Linemen Go Down
Tagovailoa wasn’t the only Alabama player that had to leave the game early due to injuries. The Crimson Tide had a rough day with multiple injuries on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Defensive tackle D.J. Dale encountered a twisted knee. Senior defensive end/tackle Raekwon Davis suffered a sprained ankle and needed assistance to leave the field. Neither player came back in the game. They are also questionable to play next week when Alabama hosts Western Carolina. This comes as a serious set of injuries for the Tide’s defensive line as Dale and Davis are the best run-stopping pure defensive linemen. Other than Davis and defensive end Phidarian Mathis (redshirt sophomore), the rest of the Tide’s two groups of defensive linemen are freshmen.
These freshmen include Dale, end Justin Eboigbe, tackle Christian Barmore, end Byron Young, and tackle/end Stephon Wynn Jr. This is even more concerning because of the lack of efficient pass rush the defensive line has brought. Between the freshmen defensive linemen, they have accounted for three total sacks in the season. The only defensive player to account for a sack against the Bulldogs on Saturday was linebacker Ben Davis. The Crimson Tide defense will need to have Dale and Davis back for more solid run support.
Najee Harris Comes Through For the Tide
There was a bright side for the Tide’s offense this past Saturday. Tide running back Najee Harris was a key factor in weakening the Bulldogs’ defense. Harris rushed for a total of 88 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. He averaged just over five yards per carry. He also accounted for three receptions for 51 yards and a 23-yard touchdown. Harris had two rushing touchdowns and the receiving touchdown in the first quarter. He continues to be a great multi-purpose back for Alabama. His role will more than likely increase with Tagovailoa now out for the season. The Tide will still initiate the short passing game with slants and screens. Harris might find himself in the passing game system more in the next few weeks.
Tide linebackers More Consistent Against Rushing Offenses
Against LSU, Alabama’s linebackers played their worst performance. They missed tackles and missed assignments. This past Saturday, they found more success against an RPO-style offense of Mississippi State. After the first touchdown in the first quarter, the defense found stability in stopping the Bulldogs offense. True freshman Shane Lee led the team in total tackles once again. He had 10 total and two solo tackles. Outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings accounted for eight total tackles, three solo tackles, and a tackle for loss. The Tide’s other starting freshman linebacker in Christian Harris was fourth on the team in total tackles with six.
In the end, it was Alabama over Mississippi State and the Crimson Tide live to fight another day.