for this game

Mississippi State shocks Alabama, becomes bowl eligible

Nov 11, 2007 - 1:38 AM STARKVILLE, Mississippi (Ticker) -- Even a bye week could not slow down Anthony Dixon and red-hot Mississippi State.

Dixon rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown Saturday as the opportunistic Bulldogs pulled off a 17-12 upset of 21st-ranked Alabama in a Southeastern Conference shocker.

It was the second consecutive win for unranked Mississippi State (6-4, 3-3 SEC West), which became bowl eligible for the first time since 2000. The Bulldogs rolled to a surprisingly easy 31-14 triumph two weeks ago at then-No. 14 Kentucky.

"It's a great effort on the team, the coaching staff and the fans as a whole," senior defensive end Titus Brown said. "It's great to say that we are bowl eligible. We just have to play these last two games as pretty as they come."

"For some of these guys, they did not have to come here," Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said. "But they did because they wanted to build a championship program for this state. In three hours, we changed the way people look at this program across the nation."

A former All-American center and assistant coach with the Crimson Tide, Croom also guided the Bulldogs to a 24-16 upset of Alabama last year in Tuscaloosa. Mississippi State had lost its first two games against Alabama with Croom at the helm.

"We've got bragging rights now," said Croom, a Tuscaloosa native. "I don't have to say anything, but if I want to I can."

"We beat them last year at their place," Dixon added. "This year at our place, we shut them down. I don't know what they are going to say about this victory, but we are going to take it."

Rather than boasting at his success against his alma mater, Croom focused on his team's recent penchant for shocking ranked schools. The Bulldogs completed a four-game stretch against ranked opponents in which they went 2-2.

"This is a big win for our fans, and hopefully now we will finally get some respect," said Croom, whose team also won at Auburn on September 15. "We have beaten three teams that have been ranked this season, and if no one believes now - they have their heads in the sand."

The Bulldogs failed to generate much offense in this one, recording just 14 first downs and 215 yards of total offense.

But Mississippi State constantly pestered Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson, forcing him into a pair of pivotal interceptions.

"We didn't execute very well in the passing game today and that is two weeks in a row," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "We need to do a better job with our ability to throw the ball where we are supposed to throw it."

The first pick came courtesy of defensive back Anthony Johnson, who intercepted Wilson in the end zone and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 10-9 lead with four seconds left in the first half.

"That was huge because it gave us the lead. We did a great job keeping their receivers out of rhythm today," Croom said. "The interception for the touchdown was a big move for us to end the half."

"We had a critical turnover right before the half that was at least a 10-point swing, maybe a 14-point swing," Saban added. "Regardless of all that, we didn't do the things that we needed to do."

Mississippi State held on to the lead from there by pounding the football with Dixon and Christian Ducre, who combined for 38 carries. Dixon gave the Bulldogs a 17-9 advantage 3 1/2 minutes into the third quarter with a three-yard TD run.

"It was big," Dixon said. "We just weren't going to lay down for them and when (the touchdown) happened, everyone got excited on the sidelines and we were ready to roll."

Mississippi State won despite a poor performance by quarterback Wesley Carroll, who completed just 9-of-21 passes for 100 yards and an interception.

"We won a big game when we did not play our best," Croom said. "That is a sign of a good football team - when you can win big games when you do not play your best."

Wilson finished 16-of-34 for a season low of 121 yards for Alabama (6-4, 4-3 West), which has played in seven games this season decided by a touchdown or less.