Tua Tagovailoa’s 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith to win the national championship will be the lasting memory when most look back on Alabama’s 2017 season. That, however, wasn’t the only late touchdown pass that won a game for the Crimson Tide.
The other came on this day five years. This time, Smith was on the receiving end of Jalen Hurts’ 26-yard toss as the Crimson Tide rallied past Mississippi State, 31-24.
Setting the Stage
No. 1 Alabama was a perfect 9-0 as it arrived at Davis Wade Stadium on Nov. 11, 2017. To that point in the season, the Crimson Tide had played just one game decided by a single score and that one featured a garbage time touchdown.
Mississippi State, at 7-2, was ranked No. 16 and one of the more pleasant surprises in the SEC. Alabama found out firsthand that the Bulldogs were for real.
Alabama Finds a Way
Two touchdown runs by Aeris Williams and another by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald gave Mississippi State a 21-17 lead after three quarters. Early in the fourth, a short field goal by Jace Christmann pushed the led to seven.
Alabama, however, had an answer. After Hurts and Josh Jacobs rushed for touchdowns in the first half, Damien Harris’ 14-yard score capped an 82-yard drive and drew the Crimson Tide even with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Following a defensive stop, Alabama was in position to take the lead with two minutes left, but Andy Pappanastos’ 41-yard field goal try was no good. Alabama’s defense responded with a 3-and-out to get the ball back to the offense with just over a minute to play.
The contest looked destined for overtime as the Crimson Tide faced 3rd-and-15 from the 43-yard-line, but a throw over the middle from Hurts to Calvin Ridley that went for 31 yards put Alabama in position to win. On the very next play, Smith took a slant from Hurts for the winning touchdown with just 25 seconds remaining.
Mississippi State would get two throws into the end zone. After a pass interference call on Alabama gave the Bulldogs an untimed down from Crimson Tide 34, Fitzgerald’s final pass went out the back of the end zone.
Despite not going ahead for good until late, Alabama dominated statistically. The Crimson Tide finished with 444 yards to 330 for Mississippi State. Hurts finished with 242 yards passing. Ridley led all receivers with 171 yards on five catches.
Box score and recap:
Alabama would start 11-0 before falling to Auburn in the regular season finale. Despite the loss, the Crimson Tide earned a College Football Playoff berth. After rolling past Clemson, Alabama beat Georgia in overtime for its fifth national championship under head coach Nick Saban.
Mississippi State split its final two regular season games before topping Louisville in a thrilling TaxSlayer Bowl. At 9-4, Mississippi State finished No. 19 in the final poll.
After not playing a game decided by fewer than 11 points over the first nine, each of the Bulldogs’ final four contests were decided by seven points or less. The first of those was a heartbreaking loss to No. 1 Alabama. It came on this day five years ago.
Featured image courtesy of Alabama athletics