TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama (No. 12 BCS, No. 11 AP) hasn't let Mississippi State catch up just yet.
The Tide (8-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) showed it can still dominate even the improved version of the Bulldogs (7-3, 3-3) -- and even after its title hopes had evaporated.
"We just felt like we needed to establish our identity in this game," said receiver Marquis Maze, who had a 45-yard touchdown catch.
The Tide used big plays to punch up the offense after the Bulldogs kept Ingram and a short-handed running game from producing much. Instead, Alabama had scores of 45, 78 and 56 yards on three consecutive offensive plays starting in the second quarter to run away with it.
"That's what we want to do," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "We've got some guys that can make explosive plays and we want to put the ball in their hands so that they have an opportunity to do that. We made some that were really big in this game."
It didn't matter that the game kicked off around the time rival Auburn was clinching the SEC West championship with a win over Georgia, ending Alabama's two-year run on top.
"We don't even think about it," Tide defensive end Marcell Dareus said. "We've just got to finish the season strong."
The performance was a little show of muscle-flexing after the Bulldogs marched into town on a six-game winning streak, their longest in 11 years, and sporting the same overall record. Alabama has won eight of the last 10 meetings with the team from across the border.
"We did not follow our recipe of what has gotten us here, which was take care of the football, make plays when we need to make them on both sides of the ball and the kicking game," Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said. "We were sloppy.
"We had too many missed tackles. You're not going to miss all those tackles, give up all those long plays and win."
Mississippi State was playing its first game since starting defensive end Nick Bell died following a brief battle with cancer 11 days earlier. The players wore patches on their jerseys in the Birmingham, Ala., native's honor.
Mullen and the athletic department have also been caught up in the pay-for-play investigation of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, a former Bulldogs recruit.
"I know emotionally it has been a very trying time for us," Mullen said. "Maybe some of the emotions got the best of us sometimes and we were trying too hard sometimes in that game rather than doing fundamentals. But I don't think that was the result of why the game ended the way it did."
Alabama had lost two of its past four games, but coasted to its 19th straight win at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mississippi State's defense allowed a season high in points, despite successfully keeping the Tide from sustaining many drives.
Alabama turned two catch-and-runs into long touchdowns and a 20-3 lead on consecutive drives in the second quarter. The Bulldogs' plodding running style couldn't come close to generating a comeback.
McElroy hit Maze on the right sideline and a couple of moves and missed tackles later, it was a 45-yard touchdown. Maze also had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown negated by a block in the back, but that only pushed the score back one play.
The Tide opened its next drive with a screen to Ingram just as McElroy took a big hit. Ingram had a foot race to the end zone after seeing open green once he got a few yards past the line of scrimmage. It was the longest play from scrimmage in the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner's career, topping a 75-yard catch against Florida in last year's SEC championship game.
"I just took three steps up, came back and caught it," Ingram said. "Julio [Jones] and [Darius] Hanks had great blocks for me. That's how we practice it all the time. A perfectly executed play."
Jones raced 56 yards for another TD on a sweep play Saban said the Tide put in for this game.
"We didn't have much success running up the middle so we had to attack the perimeter," the coach said.
McElroy completed 12 of 18 passes before sitting out most of the fourth quarter. Ingram gained just 53 yards on 18 carries, mostly running straight into the middle of Mississippi State's defense. No. 2 rusher Trent Richardson sat out with a knee injury.
Maze had five catches for 89 yards, all in the first half.
Robert Lester had an interception against both of the Bulldogs' quarterbacks, giving him seven on the season.
Starter Chris Relf was 8 of 16 for 70 yards and finished with 7 yards on 13 rushes, thanks largely to five sacks. Vick Ballard ran for 80 yards on 19 carries, but the Bulldogs' had their string of five consecutive 200-yard rushing games end.
"I ran decently and was able to get free a couple of times," Ballard said, "but it's hard to run the ball against a defense that is almost always expecting the run."
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