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SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2007
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Mississippi State defender Anthony Johnson (11) runs past Alabama tight end Nick Walker after intercepting a John Parker Wilson pass in the end zone. Johnson returned the ball 100 yards for a touchdown seconds before halftime in Starkville, Miss., on Saturday. Mississippi State won 17-12.
AP photo by Jim Lytle
Mississippi State defender Anthony Johnson (11) runs past Alabama tight end Nick Walker after intercepting a John Parker Wilson pass in the end zone. Johnson returned the ball 100 yards for a touchdown seconds before halftime in Starkville, Miss., on Saturday. Mississippi State won 17-12.

Tide can’t
catch MSU

For 2nd straight year,
‘Dogs bite Bama

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

STARKVILLE, Miss. — As the final seconds ran off the clock, Mississippi State defensive end Titus Brown stood over Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson, having sacked him on the final play.

And for the second straight year, the Bulldogs sacked Alabama, pulling off a surprising 17-12 victory.

Brown’s play at the Alabama 44-yard line wrapped up the win for Mississippi State (6-4, 3-3 SEC), which scored consecutive wins over No. 21-ranked Alabama (6-4, 4-3) for the first time since 1998.

The loss had the Tide trying to figure out how it happened again.

“Again, we got bragging rights,” Mississippi State coach and Alabama grad Sylvester Croom said. “So when I go to visit Momma and take her out to dinner I don’t have to say anything. But if I want to, I can.”

Unlike last year’s defeat, this year’s was more simplistic — it all came down to one play.

With Alabama facing at third-and-goal from the Mississippi State 2-yard line and leading 9-3 with time running out in the first half, Brown pressured Wilson, who threw the ball right to cornerback Anthony Johnson in the Tide end zone.

With nobody in front of him, Johnson sprinted down the Alabama sideline, scoring on a 100-yard play.

Suddenly, Mississippi State led 10-9, and an Alabama team that seemed in control now looked deflated.

“We turned the ball over, a critical turnover right before the half,” Tide head coach Nick Saban said. “So that is at least a 10-point swing, maybe a 14-point swing. But regardless of all that, we didn’t do the things that we needed to do.”

Before the interception, Alabama was having its way with the Bulldogs. That particular Crimson Tide drive started on its own 20-yard line, and Alabama moved the ball down into the Bulldogs’ territory partly behind the effort of MSU transfer Jonathan Lowe.

Alabama tailback Terry Grant (29) gains a first down through Mississippi State defenders Keith Fitzhugh (1) and Dominic Douglas (10) in the first quarter of the Bulldogs’ 17-12 win Saturday.
AP photo by Rogelio V. Solis
Alabama tailback Terry Grant (29) gains a first down through Mississippi State defenders Keith Fitzhugh (1) and Dominic Douglas (10) in the first quarter of the Bulldogs’ 17-12 win Saturday.
A 9-yard Lowe rush put the ball to the Mississippi State 6-yard line, then a Wilson keeper gave Alabama first-and-goal at the Bulldog 3 with 34 seconds remaining in the half.

The Crimson Tide went into its goal-line offense, but instead of using a big running back to get the remaining 3 yards, Alabama went with 5-foot-10, 188-pound Terry Grant.

The 6-0, 192-pound Roy Upchurch, a physical runner, was not available after sustaining an undisclosed injury before the game. And without Glen Coffee, Alabama’s biggest running back at 6-2, 197 pounds, Saban had little choice but to use Grant. Coffee hasn’t played in the past three games as Alabama investigates rules violations involving athletes’ textbooks.

Grant gained 1 yard on two running plays before Wilson was intercepted.

“From a coach’s standpoint, you want a bigger back in there,” Tide center Evan Cardwell said.

“But all I’m concerned with is my linemen and myself blocking those guys up front. It
doesn’t matter who is back there.”

The interception and subsequent touchdown gave the Bulldogs a 10-9 lead and sent the Bulldogs into halftime amidst a cacophony of cowbells — the Mississippi State noisemaker of choice — and when they came back out, Alabama did little to hush the Davis Wade Stadium record crowd of 56,188.

The Crimson Tide took the ball to start the quarter, and on its third play, Wilson floated a ball downfield, overthrowing wide receiver Matt Caddell and hitting MSU safety Derek Pegues for an interception.

Five plays later, Anthony Dixon ran into the Alabama end zone for a 3-yard score to put the game at 17-9 in favor of the Bulldogs.

It was the second straight game in which Wilson struggled. He completed 16 of 34 passes for 121 yards and two interceptions. Against the Bulldogs, Wilson faced a relentless pass rush, which hurried him seven times.

Following the game, he gave a simple explanation: “We weren’t clicking today like usual,” he said.

Alabama’s running game also sputtered as the Crimson Tide’s 153 yards on the ground translated into 4.1 yards a carry. Jonathan Lowe was the only Alabama running back who got anything going, rushing for 40 yards on seven attempts.

The Crimson Tide had a chance near the end of the game to stop the Bulldogs and get the ball back with enough time remaining to attempt one final drive.

A Leigh Tiffin 50-yard field goal put the score at 17-12 with 6:47 left, and with about 21/2 minutes remaining, the Bulldogs had third-and-10 from the Alabama 45-yard line.

But Christian Ducre rushed left on a draw play for 11 yards and the first down, and by the time Alabama got the ball back on its 20-yard line, the clock flashed 38 seconds.

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