November 10, 2007

Bulldogs kill clock

STARKVILLE, Miss. - For three and a half quarters Saturday, Alabama's defense had little trouble handling Mississippi State in a 17-12 loss to the Bulldogs at Scott Field.

But when the Crimson Tide was most in need of a stop - with Mississippi State trying to kill the clock on its final drive - it was unable to get off the field.

Leigh Tiffin's final field goal pulled Alabama with 17-12 with 6:47 remaining. A three-and-out stop would have given Alabama's offense a chance to win with plenty of time and three timeouts. Perhaps even time enough for two drives.

Instead, the Bulldogs found a way to grind three first downs on the drive, leaving Alabama 80 yards away from a victory with no timeouts and only 38 seconds remaining.

Wallace Gilberry and Bobby Greenwood opened the key drive with a 1-yard TFL on Anthony Dixon, but Wesley Carroll followed with a 10-yard completion on his only pass of the drive. From there, Dixon and Christian Ducre handled every snap as MSU marched to the Alabama 34 before having to punt.

The critical play came on a third-and-10 when Ducre took a draw play 11 yards to the Alabama 45. That first down - MSU's last of the drive - forced Alabama to begin burning timeouts.

"We had them in a third down situation," said Gilberry. "They are a hard-running team, and we were out of sync. They took advantage of it."

Saban also noted Ducre's draw play was a critical moment.

"I'm sure when we watch the film somebody didn't do exactly what they were supposed to do," Saban said. "That was critical in the game. Third and 10, two minutes to go ... we thought we could get them stopped there."

While the Bulldogs' six-minute march was the last thing Alabama could afford to allow, it was hardly indicative of how the Crimson Tide's defense played on the day. MSU managed only 215 total yards, averaged under three yards per rush, and got just a 9-of-21 performance from Carroll.

Darren Mustin recorded a team-high seven tackles, while Gilberry notched his eighth sack among three tackles for loss.

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