In a game that was expected to a lopsided affair in Atlanta, West Virginia came to play against the second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, but size and depth was too much as the Mountaineers fell, 33-23, in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game Saturday.
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen took no solace in the outstanding performance by his team against Alabama, a team that’s been on top of the college football world during the Nick Saban era with multiple Southeastern Conference and national championships.
“I’m not interested in moral victories. We’ve been working hard to put ourselves in a position to get a win,” said Holgorsen. “We played hard and we felt like we put ourselves in a position to win.”
Senior quarterback Clint Trickett, who showed flashes of similar play last season, completed 29-of-45 pass attempts for a career-high 365 yards and touchdown. Senior receiver Kevin White made amazing catch after amazing catch for a game-high 143 yards on nine catches and touchdown.
Despite being heralded as one of the best running back unit in the country, Rushel Shell led all West Virginia running backs with just 38 yards rushing, which should end up being an anomaly against the tough Crimson Tide defense.
For Alabama, senior Blake Sims completed 24-of-33 pass attempts for 250 yards, while also adding another 42 yards on six carries as junior Jake Coker didn’t see any on-field action until the later moments of the fourth quarter when the game was sewn up for the Crimson Tide. All-SEC running back TJ Yeldon led the Crimson Tide with 126 yards and two touchdowns, while Derrick Henry added 113 yards and a score.
Josh Lambert gave West Virginia a 3-0 lead with a short, 20-yard field goal nearly four minutes into the game, but an Adam Griffith 47-yard field goal and TJ Yeldon 15-yard rushing touchdown would give Alabama a 10-3 lead early in the second quarter. In response, Trickett and White would connect for a spectacular17-yard touchdown grab for West Virginia to tie the game at 10-10, a trend throughout the game between the two teams.
Yeldon would again get into the end zone for Alabama this time on a short one-yard touchdown run after a 13-play, 88 yard drive that chewed up more than six minutes off the game clock. With momentum seemingly shifting toward Alabama’s favor, senior receiver Mario Alford danced through the Alabama’s special teams unit for a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown that would once again tie the game, this time at 17-17.
After a Griffith 41-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, the size and depth for Alabama took its toll on the West Virginia defense, as the Crimson Tide would outscore West Virginia 13-6 over the final two quarters with a Derrick Henry touchdown and a pair of Griffith field goals. Lambert’s two field goals in the second half, one from 42 and 41 yards away, along with the one from the first half would the fourth instance in his career of kicking four field goals in a game for West Virginia.
Meanwhile, the four field goals made by Griffith was the most since Texas’ Anthony Fera knocked through the same amount last season in the Longhorns’ 47-40 overtime win over West Virginia last November in Morgantown.
“It’s frustrating because you play against a really good team and you are in position in the fourth quarter to be able to win the game and you don’t have these opportunities very often,” said Holgorsen. “We were in a very similar situation last year when we played Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma, and we were in that game, had a chance to win it and we didn’t.”
“I felt like we are better at every position and after watching this game I feel like we are better at every position,” said Holgorsen. “Now I think everybody has got to rally around this team for the rest of the season.”
Mountaineer Nation won’t have to wait very long to support their team as West Virginia returns to Morgantown for the 2014 home opener against the Towson Tigers on September 6 that kicks off under the lights at Milan Puskar Stadium at 7:30 PM.