By Scott Latta
UA Media Relations
STARKVILLE, Miss. ?? Alabama couldn't hold a nine-point lead Saturday against Mississippi State, turning the ball over twice in a 17-12 loss at Scott Field in Starkville.
After Alabama kicked off to start the game, Tide safety Rashad Johnson picked off Mississippi State quarterback Wesley Carroll on the Bulldogs' first possession, setting up Alabama in MSU territory. Six plays later, sophomore Leigh Tiffin kicked his first of four field goals on the day, a 39-yarder, to give Alabama a 3-0 lead.
Alabama would add two more first-half field goals, a 29-yarder and a career-long 51-yarder from Tiffin to take a 9-3 lead over the Bulldogs late into the second quarter. With the Tide driving inside the Mississippi State five-yard line with less than a minute to go before halftime, however, MSU cornerback Anthony Johnson stepped in front a Wilson pass and returned it 100 yards to give the Bulldogs a 10-9 lead at the break.
"Obviously very disappointing," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. "We didn't execute. Mississippi State did a great job today and they deserved to win. We didn't make the plays in the game that we needed to make. It is everybody's responsibility starting with me and the coaching staff.
"We had a critical turnover right before the half that was at least a ten point swing maybe a fourteen point swing. Regardless of all that, we didn't do the things that we needed to do."
Mississippi State would score its only other touchdown of the day in the third quarter on a three-yard run from Anthony Dixon off another Alabama interception to take a 17-9 lead. Alabama could manage only a field goal in the second half, a 50-yarder from Tiffin.
Wilson finished the day 16-of-34 for 121 yards with two interceptions. Three seniors led the Alabama receiving corps, with DJ Hall catching five passes for 46 yards, Matt Caddell catching three passes for 53 yards and Keith Brown with two catches for 12 yards.
Freshman Terry Grant had 19 carries for 75 yards and junior Jonathan Lowe, a Mississippi State transfer, had eight carries for 40 yards.
"I am not going to lose my confidence just because I throw a couple of interceptions," Wilson said. "That's not like me; I have never done that before. We just could not get things going."
On defense, senior Darren Mustin led the group with seven tackles. Senior Wallace Gilberry had six tackles, including three for loss and a sack. Rashad Johnson's first-quarter interception was his team-leading sixth of the year. He also had five tackles.
Tiffin finished the day 4-of-4 on field goals, matching a career-high for kicks in a game. He has now connected on his last eight field goal attempts and is 21-of-28 on the season.
"Tiffin did a great job today," Saban said. "He made some big kicks in a 51- and 50-yarder in critical times in the game."
Alabama returns to Tuscaloosa next Saturday to host Louisiana-Monroe. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and will not be televised.