TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Blake Sims, T.J. Yeldon and No. 4 Alabama’s relentless defense delivered on a big stage, and the Crimson Tide held off No. 1 Mississippi State 25-20 on Saturday.
The Tide (9-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference, No. 5 CFP) reasserted itself as a national title contender with a dominant first half and some clutch play in the fourth quarter.
Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs (9-1, 5-1, No. 1 CFP) kept fighting to keep their first-ever reign going for a sixth week. They couldn’t conquer Alabama at raucous Bryant-Denny Stadium, though.
Mississippi State scored early in the fourth to make it a six-point game but Sims and Yeldon answered with a steady march to the end zone.
The Bulldogs produced a touchdown with 15 seconds left after a drive took 3 precious minutes off the clock.
Alabama recovered the onside kick to secure its seventh straight win in the series between two programs separated by some 85 miles, and considerable gaps in tradition.
The Bulldogs fell one win shy of the program-record 13-game winning streak but probably remain in the championship hunt. They were the only unbeaten team in the brutal SEC coming into the game, and didn’t go down quietly after trailing 19-3 at halftime.
Down 25-13, Prescott had the Bulldogs driving in the final six minutes, even converting on fourth and 7. Then Landon Collins recorded Alabama’s third interception of the Heisman candidate with 5:01 left.
Sims completed 19 of 31 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown, but made his biggest plays on Alabama’s final touchdown drive.
He converted two third-and-long plays with runs a la Prescott, and delivered on a third with an 8-yard pass to Yeldon.
Then Yeldon, whose status was unclear all week with an ankle injury, kept the Tide moving with three straight runs, ultimately stepping out of a defender’s grasp to cap it with a 6-yard touchdown.
Yeldon finished with 72 yards on 16 carries while Amari Cooper caught eight passes for 88 yards and a score.
Prescott was Mississippi State’s workhorse as usual against a front seven that yielded sparse room to run and, at times, little time to throw.
Prescott was 27-of-48 passing for 290 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw an interception in the end zone. He ran 22 times for 82 yards.
Josh Robinson, the SEC’s No. 2 rusher, was tackled for a safety in the first quarter and never got going. He gained just 37 yards on 12 carries.
The Bulldogs outgained Alabama 428-335 but the Tide didn’t commit any turnovers.
Mississippi State had trimmed it to 19-13 early in the fourth quarter.
First Fred Ross’s 23-yard punt return set the Bulldogs up at Alabama’s 38. Prescott then finally found some running room with a 22-yard gain before hitting Ross for a 4-yard touchdown.
Then it was Sims’ turn for a drive that milked more than six minutes off the clock. Alabama is 5-0 at home, and this was the first one that was close.