Mississippi State gave signs of preparedness and aggression in pre-game warm-ups that were sensed by Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
In the pre-game talk, the Alabama coach warned his players to be prepared for a street fight.
Saban told his players, "you're going to have to go toe-to-toe, and change the way they think, in terms of the way we play and execute. Do you have enough honor in yourself to be responsible for yourself and what you're supposed to do? Do you have enough courage to do it in any circumstance and have the perseverance to do it all the time?"
Moreover, the MSU head coach Dan Mullen infused a heavy dose of inspiration into his squad during the pre-game coaches talk as well. He then pulled out a new jersey for the team to wear onto the field of play.
The Bulldogs hit the field in Black jerseys with purple numbering, well prepared and full of energy to take on the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide. This was the first time the MSU team had ever worn a non-traditional jersey for a football game.
The inspirational messages worked for both sides.
The first play from scrimmage was a Tyson Lee pass down field that caught Alabama cornerback Marquis Johnson off his guard. Johnson was flagged for pass interference on a play that would have resulted in a touchdown if the pass had not been under thrown.
On the second play from scrimmage, Anthony Dixon took the hand-off from QB Tyson Lee and sprinted straight ahead for an 18-yard gain to the Alabama 42-yard line. The first two plays reminded some Alabama fans of the start of the Utah game less than one year ago.
What a difference a season makes. This team knows how to pull back and reassess. This team has players that want to be champions by exhibiting poise, control, perseverance and integrity. An adjustment was in order and the end result was a balanced, dominating win by the Crimson Tide.
This win was not without its share of mistakes on the part of Alabama and grit displayed by the opposition. At times, the MSU Bulldogs would show extra effort and they pulled off unexpected, explosive plays against the vaunted Alabama defense.
On the first three Alabama drives, the Tide got no closer to the goal than the MSU 38-yard line. That drive ended late in the first quarter with the Tide attempting to assert themselves as more powerful than the opposition on 4th-and-four.
In addition to the MSU opening pass and the 18-yard rush by Dixon, Tyson Lee completed an 11-yard pass to Dixon for a first down, a 24-yard pass to Chad Bumphis, and 2-yard rush by Chris Relf on 3rd-and-2 for another MSU first down.
The Tide looked evenly matched through the first quarter of play. But with 00:52 remaining in the first quarter, with the Tide starting from their own 20-yard line, McElroy drove the Men in Crimson 80 yards in six plays for the first of four touchdowns.
The score came on a strike thrown by the Alabama quarterback to a streaking WR Darius Hanks. Hanks, coming across the middle from right to left, caught the ball, turned upfield shaking one tackler, to hit the open field for a sideline scamper that went for 45 yards.
The second Tide score came on the ensuing Alabama possession after a quick three-and-out by the Bulldogs. The drive chewed up 06:14 of clock, with McElroy taking the Tide 77 yards in 11 plays. Ingram rushed over left tackle for the score.
For the evening, Ingram carried the ball 19 times for a net 149 yards rushing. Ingram advanced the ball 151 yards and lost only two yards on one carry. Incredible, to say the least. He was constantly moving forward when the ball was in his hands.
As a team, Alabama rushed for 252 yards and passed for 192. The Tide compiled a total of 444 yards total offense. At game end, Alabama led in every offensive category and dominated the opposition defensively.
Saban said he wanted his team to show that they could strike quickly. Hanks, Jones and Ingram filled the order. Hanks and Jones scored on explosive plays in the passing game, Ingram blew through a gaping hole and galloped 70 yards for a quick score.
Mark Barron intercepted two Tyson Lee passes, Marquis Johnson grabed another. Johnson probably could have batted the ball down and the Tide would have ended up with better field position but he needed the interception for his confidence.
In addition to the interception, Johnson made two sensational pass blocks that would have gone for scores if not for excellent timing and incredible athleticism knocking the ball away from the intended MSU reciever.
The one glaring flaw in the Alabama game was on special teams. Javier Arenas did not have the opportunity to return a punt (two punt returns for zero yards) and the kickoff coverage gave up 212 return yards by MSU return men.
Nevertheless, Alabama marched on to win convincingly, 31-3. Next week, the Tide returns to Bryant-Denny for the final home game of the season against the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Moccasins.
The final game of the regular season will be played on the road at Jordan-Hare.
For the 2009 Alabama Football senior class, "college days are swiftly fleeting, soon we'll leave their halls, Ne're to join another meeting 'neath their hallowed walls. Faithful, loyal, firm and true. Heart bound to heart will beat. Year by year the ages through until Heaven we'll meet."
In this case, the wall and confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Take the lead seniors, guide this team through the season undefeated, wire the mouth of the mighty Gators and capture the crystal coaches trophy in the Rose Bowl.
This is the best Alabama team effort that I have witnessed since the late '70's.
Alabama is 22-2 in the last two seasons. Saban's first team ever to go back to back seasons with a 10-0 start.
The Alabama fans should send a message to the team upon return to Bryant-Denny. Fan support in the game should be memorable for these players, particularly the seniors, even if the game is against the lowly Mocs.
That message should ring loud and clear, "Every Bama man's behind you, hit your stride. You're Bama's Football pride, Roll Tide, Roll Tide, Roll Tide."