Q&A with Alabama beat reporter Nick Kelly

·4 min read

Oct. 14—Mississippi State (3-2) returns to Davis Wade Stadium off a bye week and welcomes No. 5 Alabama (5-1) to town.

MSU defeated Texas A&M 26-22 two weeks ago while Alabama is coming off a 41-38 loss at A&M last weekend.

Nick Kelly covers the Crimson Tide for the Tuscaloosa News. Here's what he had to say about the upcoming matchup:

Q: Why does Alabama bounce back from wins so well?

A: The talent is usually always there. It's not a matter of when they lose they're just way below talent-wise... If you are below a certain level talent-wise, it's hard to make that up at times...

Usually when they lose, it's not necessarily because they are far inferior talent-wise, they just might not have put things together in the right way or not made plays needed to... When you win 19 games in a row like they just did until now, I have to imagine it's hard to even think you can lose. Their freshmen and sophomores had not lost a college football game.

I have to imagine them being humans, this has to refocus you. And because it's such a high standard, you don't want to lose a game. I think that's probably why they tend to be successful and frankly, (Nick) Saban tends to know the right buttons to push.

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Q: How do you think quarterback Bryce Young has managed to put up the numbers he has?

A: He's not perfect, no doubt. But he acts like a veteran. I hear him talk and you can see why he has succeeded in just about every moment of his football career.

Even though he has super talent super poise, there's still some things he hasn't faced or seen. There's a little bit of a challenge there that he's supposed to get with that experience. For the most part, he's really good.

He's really smart. He, for the most part, handles pressure pretty well. He was sacked four times against A&M him, but if he's not who he is in terms of being Houdini-like, that number could have been six or seven. He's just a guy who he can do most things on the field.

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Q: How does the Alabama defense matchup with the Air Raid offense?

A: They have some good athletes, no doubt. It just comes down to can they make the plays when they need to. Of course, with that Air Raid offense, it can throw a lot of curveballs at you, and you've got to be ready.

The pass rush was a bit of an issue against Texas A&M and it might be an issue against Mississippi State just because they tend to get the ball out fairly quick. It's gonna be a little tricky to rush the passer at times, but they've got some athletes, they've got some guys with capabilities.

They've just had trouble closing or making the plays they need to make in certain moments. They're not necessarily making the tackle in the hole where they need to be making the tackle. They're not necessarily timing a throw very well when they need to in coverage...

I just think that comes down to execution. This defense can probably handle most offenses because they have such talent, but it's just a matter of can they make the plays they need to. I know it sounds simple, but it's just as complex at the same time.

Q: Who are some players outside of Young who could be X-factors against Mississippi State?

A: (Running back Brian Robinson) is fantastic. JoJo Earle is an interesting guy. He's a freshman receiver — pretty reliable hands and a really shifty slot receiver. He's a guy to keep an eye on. He hasn't necessarily had huge games, but he's a nice weapon for Bryce...

(Jameson Williams) is kind of becoming their No. 1 receiver. He had 10 catches and was clutch in that Texas A&M game. He transferred from Ohio State this is offseason. He's another very valuable piece that doesn't get talked about on a national level a ton, but I think it's going to continue building.

Christian Harris is quite solid at linebacker who maybe doesn't get talked about as much as he should.

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