‘Y’all just woke up a monster’: Here’s what we learned from Alabama vs. Mississippi State

Crimson Tide defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a sweeping 41-0 win Saturday night, keeping their undefeated record unblemished. Here’s what you need to know. 

Alabama’s defense was finally able to get off the field.

Throughout the season, Alabama’s defense has struggled to get off the field on third down. Through the first three games, opposing teams converted third downs 54% of the time. That percentage has gradually gone down the last three games, with the Bulldogs completing one of 11 third-down drives. Alabama was also able to force Mississippi State to go three-and-out on their first four drives. 

The Crimson Tide defense struggled early on with giving up big yardage on checkdown plays to running backs and tight ends. There were several instances when Alabama linebackers were in unfavorable matchups against running backs and tight ends, due to lack of  pre-snap communication and poor tackling. Tonight, the Alabama defense did a better job defending the checkdown through better tackling in space. 

Alabama head coach Nick Saban discussed how the team improved their tackling this week in a press conference. 

“You’re gonna have to break on the ball and you’re going to have to tackle it space,” Saban said. “We made them practice it. We made them tackle high to get the other guys there.”

The name of this defense this season is making improvements each week. Coming off of arguably Alabama’s best defensive performance, cornerback Patrick Surtain II discussed how games like this help the defense mentally going forward.

“This gives us a lot of confidence going into the weeks ahead,” Surtain said. “We went into this week knowing what [needed to be done]. I feel like this will give us an advantage moving on.”

The preparation that went into this performance was more than rigorous according to Saban. The team practiced against the air raid all week and studied film on it throughout the summer. The shut out Saturday night was a message from the team that this is an Alabama defense of old. 

“I feel like we have a lot more work to do,” senior linebacker Dylan Moses said. “I feel like we’re taking the right steps, but [after 24 hours] it’s back to the grind.”

Senior wide receiver DeVonta Smith told the media in the post-game press conference that their criticism of the defense was the motivation behind the shut out tonight. 

“Y’all just woke up a monster,” Smith said. 

Offense played well against the Bulldogs’ unique defensive scheme.

The Crimson Tide offense played well against the No. 1 passing defense in the SEC. Alabama’s offense saw more soft-zone coverage Saturday, as Mississippi State sought to eliminate deep throws. That did not stop the offense from being dominant in the air as wide receiver Devonta Smith caught four touchdowns and had 203 receiving yards. 

Smith’s four touchdowns tied Amari Cooper’s record for the most receiving touchdowns in Alabama history at 31. Smith still gave the Crimson Tide the explosive plays downfield, due to his route running ability. Smith may not be the explosive player that Waddle is, but he still provides the downfield separation needed to keep the offense rolling along. 

Junior quarterback Mac Jones that he always had trust in Smith. 

“[Smith] is always open,” Jones said. “I trust all of those [receivers]. If they put one guy on [Smith] I just have to throw it up.”

Jones opened up the game struggling slightly, completing only four of eight passes. But Jones finished the night strong with 291 yards and four touchdowns. He told the media after the game that he had prepared well but the experience against the actual team was what he needed to adjust. 

“They didn’t give us anything we didn’t see,” Jones said. “It definitely took me more time to get used to it tonight.”

Alabama will go into this week on a BYE week. They will play the LSU Tigers Nov. 14 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.