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No. 4 Alabama beats Mississippi State, 24-7

Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell (17) is tackled for a loss in the first quarter by Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower (30) and defensive lineman Damion Square (92) in their NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell (17) is tackled for a loss in the first quarter by Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower (30) and defensive lineman Damion Square (92) in their NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
By David Brandt
AP Sports Writer / November 12, 2011

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STARKVILLE, Miss.—Trent Richardson rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown, Alabama's defense gave up just 131 total yards and the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide beat Mississippi State 24-7 on Saturday night.

It was a typical no-frills victory for Alabama (9-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference), which has won nine of its last 11 against Mississippi State, including four straight. The Crimson Tide defense has held 11 straight opponents to 14 points or less.

Alabama struggled again with field goals, missing two of them in the first half after missing four in last week's loss to No. 1 LSU. But Richardson and Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns, made up for those miscues.

Mississippi State (5-5, 1-5) remains one victory from bowl eligibility. Third-year coach Dan Mullen is now 2-11 against SEC Western Division rivals, with both victories coming against Ole Miss.

The Bulldogs averaged just 2.2 yards per play.

Richardson didn't have his typical Heisman-caliber performance, finding little running room against Mississippi State's defense, especially in the first half. But he got stronger as the game progressed, with an explosive 25-yard run early in the fourth quarter to Mississippi State's 4.

Two plays later, he plowed through the line for a 2-yard touchdown that gave the Tide an insurmountable 17-0 lead. He had 88 of his 127 rushing yards in the second half.

Alabama could've had a bigger lead much sooner, but struggled once again with the kicking game. The Tide missed two field goals -- a 49-yard attempt by Cade Foster and a 31-yarder by Jeremy Shelley -- before taking a 7-0 lead in the second quarter after Lacy's 2-yard touchdown run.

But Mississippi State's kickers couldn't kick straight either.

The Bulldogs blew their best opportunity late in the first half when Cameron Lawrence intercepted A.J. McCarron's pass and returned it to the Alabama 4-yard line. But the ensuing three plays lost yards, and Brian Egan missed a 29-yard field goal as Mississippi State came up empty.

McCarron completed 14 of 24 passes for 163 yards and an interception.

Mississippi State did have one rally early in the fourth quarter. LaDarius Perkins returned a kickoff 68 yards to Alabama's 22-yard line and three plays later Russell threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Chris Smith as the Bulldogs pulled within 17-7.

But Alabama buckled down from that point. Lacy's 32-yard touchdown with 1:18 remaining pushed the lead to 24-7.

Mississippi State's two-quarterback system with Chris Relf and Tyler Russell had been effective over the past few weeks, but failed to generate much momentum against the Tide. Mullen even briefly tried third-stringer Dylan Favre in the second half, but nothing worked.

Russell had the most success, completing 13 of 25 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Mississippi State had only 12 yards rushing.