November 12, 2017 1:51:32 AM
Brett Hudson - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- The rare explosive play was what kept the No. 1 Alabama football team within striking distance of No. 18 Mississippi State.
It was one too many that won it the game.
Even though MSU had a big edge in time of possession, and it controlled Alabama with an attacking defense, the Crimson Tide found the seam for one too many explosive plays. Two of them in consecutive fashion, a 31-yard strike to Calvin Ridley and a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Hurts to DeVonta Smith lifted Alabama to a 31-24 victory at Davis Wade Stadium.
Hurts led Alabama (10-0, 7-0 Southeastern Conference, No. 2 College Football Playoff) with 282 total yards. He was 10-for-19 for 242 yards, and the game-winning touchdown pass. He also rushed for 40 yards on 19 carries and a score. Junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley fell 3 yards short of tying his career-high, with 171 yards on five catches.
"We gave up too many explosive plays on the defensive side of the ball, I think, but they have great players and some of their great players made those explosive plays," MSU coach Dan Mullen said.
After the teams alternated scores and were tied at 14 at halftime, MSU's style of play paid off in a red-zone stop that forced a field goal before consecutive MSU scores, a Nick Fitzgerald touchdown run and a Jace Christmann field goal that gave the Bulldogs a 24-17 lead.
That lead held until the final 10 minutes. Alabama running back Damien Harris scored on a 14-yard run to tie the game with 9 minutes, 49 seconds left. MSU only mustered two first downs after that, one of them coming on a penalty that would have been the final play of the game.
Running back Aeris Williams scored both of MSU's first-half touchdowns and finished with 97 rushing yards. MSU (7-3, 3-3, No. 16) had the better of Alabama in total offense for most of the game before the final 10 minutes and ended with 330 yards.
Freshman running back and Columbus native Kylin Hill ran four times for 7 yards. He also had a catch for 2 yards. Linebacker Willie Gay Jr., a Starkville native, had one tackle.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson