STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Alabama looked lethargic, uninspired, sloppy and downright ordinary against a middling Southeastern Conference team on Saturday.
And he top-ranked Crimson Tide still found a way to win by nearly two touchdowns.
T.J. Yeldon rushed for 160 yards and A.J. McCarron threw two touchdown passes as Alabama overcame four turnovers to beat Mississippi State 20-7 on Saturday night.
"We typically struggle here and we did again tonight," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "But give Mississippi State credit, they had a good gameplan. They played very physical and we couldn't control the line of scrimmage."
It was the lowest scoring game of the season for Alabama (10-0, 7-0 SEC), which led 10-7 midway through the third quarter before pulling away.
Alabama has seemed invincible over the past two months, winning seven straight games by at least three touchdowns. But that aura wasn't anywhere to be found at Davis Wade Stadium, with Saban's bunch looking curiously mortal after last week's emotional victory over LSU.
"We came out sluggish and we were sluggish to the end." Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood said.
Mississippi State (4-6, 1-5) kept the game far closer than most anticipated, but couldn't take advantage of Alabama's mistakes. Tyler Russell started for the injured Dak Prescott and completed 15 of 24 passes for 144 yards and an interception before leaving with a shoulder injury when the Bulldogs were trying to rally in the fourth quarter.
McCarron tossed two rare interceptions and Yeldon had a costly fumble that led to Mississippi State's only touchdown, but Alabama survived to set up a much-anticipated Iron Bowl with Auburn.
Mississippi State had two chances to get back into the game in the fourth quarter after McCarron's second interception and a fumble by Kenyan Drake gave the Bulldogs field position in Alabama territory.
But without Russell, Mississippi State's offense went nowhere. Freshman Damian Williams didn't connect on any of his five pass attempts — though two of them were good passes that were dropped.
"If you're going to beat that team, you've got to make plays," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.
Mullen said Russell felt his throwing shoulder "pop" after trying to make a tackle following his interception late in the third quarter. He played the next series, but struggled to throw and Mullen made the switch.
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