Alabama once again imposed its will on another opponent Saturday night, this time rolling to a 38-7 victory over previously unbeaten Mississippi State.The Tide took it to the Bulldogs early and often, scoring touchdowns on each of its first three possessions.
By the time the first quarter had ended, any hopes of a Mississippi State upset had been dashed and "we believe" signs were shoved ever so quietly under the seats of visiting fans. Any thoughts that 'Bama might be looking past Mississippi were written off from the opening kickoff.
The victory leaves Alabama 8-0 and headed into a battle in Baton Rouge this week against LSU with the winner likely earning a bid to the SEC championship game.
Here is a brief look at how the Alabama starters fared individually in the win over the Bulldogs.
A.J. McCarron: Grade A-
Ho-hum, the Alabama quarterback was 16-23 for 208 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. So what else is new?
The most impressive throw of the night was a 57-yard touchdown to a wide open Kenny Bell for the second score of the night. McCarron also scrambled two times on the opening drive, keeping the possession moving and setting up the first score.
If there was anything to criticize, it was the near-interception he threw to a stone-handed Bulldog defensive back. Aside from that, it was business as usual for McCarron.
Third string quarterback Phillip Ely deserves a mention for a well executed 27-yard touchdown to Eddie Lacy as well.
Eddie Lacy: Grade B-
T.J. Yeldon: Grade A-
Lacy found it tough on the ground Saturday, accounting for just 28 yards on 10 carries. His long run of the night went for just six yards. He did, however, have his best night of the season catching the ball with four receptions for 51 yards and the previously mentioned touchdown where he practically walked 27 yards into the end zone.
Yeldon was impressive once again, gaining over 10 yards on each of his first three carries. On the night he finished with 85 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries.
Backup Kenyan Drake had 47 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries in fourth quarter duty.
Amari Cooper: B+
Christion Jones: A+
Kevin Norwood: C
Amari Cooper, who has become the focus of the Alabama passing game, was nursing an early foot injury. He still managed to catch four passes for 47 yards on the night.
Christion Jones only caught one pass for 22 yards, but made a huge difference on special teams. Jones forced two fumbles on kickoffs Saturday night, one that was recovered and led to an Alabama score. He gets the best grade of the night for his all-around effort.
Non-starter Kenny Bell had the most exciting catch of the night, breaking free for a 57-yard first quarter touchdown.
Michael Williams: Grade A
Michael Williams was the favorite target of McCarron in this game, catching a season-high five passes for 38 yards. His nine yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter put the Tide up 21-0 and the rout was on.
Williams was flawless on the night and gives future opponents one more weapon to be concerned about at the best time possible as Alabama faces a road trip to LSU on Saturday.
Cyrus Kouandjio: Grade C
Chance Warmack: Grade A-
Barrett Jones: Grade A-
Anthony Steen: Grade A-
D.J. Fluker: Grade C
Alabama running backs were tackled in the backfield just twice by Bulldog defenders, largely due to the effectiveness of the offensive line.
In the passing game, McCarron had to scramble on a few occasions but was sacked just twice. These sacks were allowed by Fluker and Kouandjio.
Still, the offensive line has looked more cohesive as a unit and has continued to improve with each game. In October, the protection of McCarron as a whole was vastly improved over that of September.
Ed Stinson: Grade B
Jesse Williams: Grade B
Damion Square: Grade A
In part because the Bulldogs managed to run the ball just 21 times on the night, this trio combined for just four tackles in the game.
Damion Square was the most effective on the night, credited for three quarterback hurries.
Even though the stat sheet doesn't show it, these three managed to plug holes all night and pushed around offensive linemen consistently, allowing the linebackers to find their way to the ball with ease.
Trey DePriest: Grade B
C.J. Mosley: Grade B+
Xzavier Dickson: Grade C
Mosley recorded seven tackles on the night, had one quarterback hurry, and generally created chaos everywhere he went all evening.
DePriest seems to be improving with every game and each week his name is called with greater regularity. Trey had four tackles and one quarterback hurry.
Also worth mentioning was the impressive effort put forth by Denzell Duvall who was credited with two tackles for loss (21 yards total), a sack, and two quarterback hurries in a backup role.
Vinnie Sunseri: Grade A
Deion Belue: Grade A-
Dee Milliner: Grade B
Robert Lester: Grade A+
HaHa Clinton-Dix: Grade C
Sunseri was fantastic once again, leading the team with eight tackles, seven of them solo efforts.
Belue is getting better each week and had four tackles as well as a pair of pass breakups.
Despite a pair of 15-yard penalties in the game, Milliner blocked the Tide's first field goal of the season in the first quarter.
Robert Lester was the man of the night, though. The future NFL star is finally back to his form of 2010 and had a fumble recovery and a pass breakup on the night. The best play of the night, though, was his interception in the end zone that made Mississippi walk away from a 97-yard drive with no points.