STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - For two weeks, Sylvester Croom hid his true feelings about the importance of Saturday's game between Mississippi State and his alma mater.
``He was as calm as I've ever seen him in a long time,'' linebacker Gabe O'Neal said.
After the Bulldogs upset Alabama 17-12, though, Croom, a former Crimson Tide player and coach, let his emotions show for just a few minutes.
He grabbed 250-pound defensive end Titus Brown - like Croom a Tuscaloosa native - and carried him on his shoulder. He hugged athletic director Larry Templeton. And Templeton presented Croom with a game ball in the locker room.
``That was special,'' Mississippi State spokesman Mike Nemeth said.
Saturday's win was, too, for long-suffering Mississippi State, which is now bowl-eligible with six wins after six years of three wins or fewer.
The Bulldogs (6-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference), who play at Arkansas on Saturday, also received six points in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll.
It was the second straight win against Alabama and also the second straight win against a ranked team for the Bulldogs.
``If no one believes now, they have their heads stuck in the sand,'' Croom said.
The upset seemed improbable after the way Mississippi State started, though.
Wes Carroll threw his first collegiate interception on the Bulldogs' third play, resulting in a field goal and the end of his school-record string of 137 attempts without a pick.
Brown was called for defensive holding, a personal-foul facemask and a late hit on quarterback John Parker Wilson, penalties totaling 40 yards. The holding call kept Alabama's offense on the field and the drive resulted in another field goal.
Mississippi State defenders dropped three interceptions and three short punts kept Alabama hovering just out of scoring range in the first 29 minutes as well.
Croom's endless speeches about effort paid off in the final minute of the first half, however, when Anthony Johnson intercepted Wilson in the end zone and returned it a school-record 100 yards.
Had the pass been thrown away or fallen incomplete, Alabama coach Nick Saban said Mississippi State may never have rallied.
``Even though we only scored nine points we were controlling the game,'' Saban said. ``Four-and-1 at the 1, we kick the field goal and we are up 12-0, we're still in control of the game and that was a critical error.''
Mississippi State picked off Wilson again on the opening drive of the second half, setting up a touchdown. The Bulldogs' defense stiffened, holding the Tide to a field goal in the second half. The offense then put together an 11-play drive late in the fourth quarter.
It was never pretty, covering just 38 yards. But it was effective, killing 6 minutes and leaving Alabama with just 38 seconds to mount a comeback after Mississippi state punted.
``I guess they thought they were a better team,'' tailback Anthony Dixon said. ``We beat them last year at their place. Then this year at our place and we shut them down. I don't know what they are going to say about this victory, but we are going to take it.''

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