STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Alabama struggled offensively throughout the first quarter Saturday, but it still struck first in scoring.

Cyrus Jones, the Crimson Tide's senior cornerback and punt returner, returned a 69-yard punt with 10:44 left in the half to give Alabama a 7-0 lead over Mississippi State.

Jones, who took over full-time punt return duties this season, caught the ball on the Alabama 31-yard line, then ran laterally to his left before cutting up field into the open field. The Baltimore native got at least one favorable block on the return, from freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick around the Bulldogs' 47-yard line, and while it looked like it may have been a block in the block, it was not called.

The touchdown, the second of Jones' career, was the first Alabama punt return for a touchdown since Christion Jones scored on a 75-yard return against Chattanooga in 2013.

Last season, Jones forced and returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown just before halftime in the Crimson Tide's 23-17 loss at Ole Miss.

Alabama scored two more touchdowns in the second quarter in its 31-6 victory