December 18, 2007

Mississippi wins inter-state bragging rights

MOBILE, Ala. - Who says all-star games don't mean anything?

The 21st annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic certainly meant something to Mississippi. After falling to Alabama eight out of the last nine meetings in the inter-state rivalry, there was plenty of reason to think that the streak of dominance would continue. After all, Alabama's roster boasts two five-star prospects, numerous division I commitments and the most highly touted player in the southeast in Julio Jones.

But all of the numbers and rankings went out the window after the opening kickoff. The Magnolia state came out of the gates swinging and never looked back en route to a 26-7 win, grabbing a healthy dose of bragging rights in the process.

Mississippi set the tone early on Monday night. On the opening drive, Quarterback Bret Jefcoat led his team on a 14-play 77-yard march in which Mississippi went 4-4 on third down conversions. After scrambling for a 22-yard gain to put Mississippi into the red zone, Jefcoat capped things off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Simmie Yarborough.

While the opening drive seemed to catch the talented Alabama defense off guard, Jefcoat wasn't surprised at all.

"That goes back to high school," Jefcoat said after the game. "Every opening possession in high school we scored every time and I wanted to go in this game thinking, 'hey lets start out quick. Let's put points on the board right at the start' and we did it. Things just clicked for us."

Things continued to click throughout the first half for Mississippi.

On the first possession for Alabama, Mississippi's swarming defense forced a three-and-out and gave an early indication that its defense was motivated to play. In the game, Alabama had 14 offensive possessions. Only four of those possessions lasted more than three plays.

When Mississippi got the ball back, it didn't take long to get back on the scoreboard. Ocean Springs, Miss. wide receiver DeAndre Brown showed that he should be considered as one of the top players in the country when he took a crossing route 55-yards for a touchdown on the very next play. Just like the rest of his Mississippi teammates Brown was motivated by the players playing across the way for Alabama, one in particular.

Even if Brown had wanted to, he couldn't block out Rivals.com's top-rated wide receiver Julio Jones this week. His teammates wouldn't let him. Every ball that was out of Brown's reach during practice, he would hear cat calls along the lines of "Julio would have caught that."

"It was motivational all week," Brown said. "My teammates stayed on me all week saying you can play ball too so go out there and show them. I used that as motivation and I came out here and achieved all my goals."

After a muffed punt snap gave Alabama the ball on the Mississippi 20 yard-line, Alabama went to its best player to make a play, but two of Mississippi's top athletes stepped up instead. Alabama quarterback Casey Weston went up top to Julio Jones in the end zone but Alonzo Lawrence was there in coverage and tipped the ball to teammate Charles Mitchell for a game-changing interception.

Mitchell who closed the night with a team-high eight tackles was all over the field for Mississippi in run support and in pass coverage. Lawrence had the task of covering Jones all evening and did a beautiful job. He ended the night with an interception and three passes defended, limiting Jones to one catch for nine yards.

Later in the second quarter, with Barrett Trotter working from his own two yard-line, an ill-advised pass landed in the hands of Charles Rancifer for another Mississippi interception, this one for a touchdown.

Down 20-0 at halftime, Alabama took to the field in the second half looking like a completely different team.

Burton Scott opened up the half with a 37-yard kickoff return for Alabama and then Trotter took over, making sharp throws and improvising on more than one occasion to move the chains. The drive ended with a perfect throw and catch from Trotter to Dekendrick Moncrief from 30 yards out and suddenly Alabama was back in business.

After a stop by its defense, Alabama was facing a 20-7 deficit with good field position and a chance to make a major momentum swing early in the second half. Trotter went right back to work, connecting on two big gains to future teammate Reggie Hunt and engineering another nice drive all the way down to the Mississippi 5 yard-line. But Alonzo Lawrence decided to shut the door on the Alabama comeback.

Trotter attempted to get Julio Jones his second catch of the game on a quick screen to Lawrence's side but Lawrence read the play immediately, jumped the route and raced 94-yards for a touchdown.

Following the interception, the clock read 4:08 remaining in the third quarter, the scoreboard read 26-7 but the looks on the faces of each team made it clear that the game was as good as over.

Notes: Take away three passes and Barrett Trotter's evening goes from a nightmare to a dream. The Auburn commit went 11-15 for 117 yards and one touchdown. However, out of his four incompletions, three were interceptions and two were returned for touchdowns….Jerrell Harris led Alabama defensively with a game-high nine tackles, one for a loss and one forced fumble….After the win by Mississippi, Alabama maintains a 14-7 lead in the series all-time…Dekendrick Moncrief was named the MVP for the Alabama team with 6 catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Alonzo Lawrence was named the Mississippi MVP…Burton Scott played the majority of the snaps on both sides of the ball and returned kicks for Alabama…Robert Lester, Eric Allen and Justin Rogers all left the game early with injuries for Alabama…Despite the one-sided first half, the final statistics were very even with the exception of one: Alabama had five turnovers to Mississippi's none…The official attendance for the Monday night game was 6,112.


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