ATLANTA — After throwing for 365 yards and watching bookoodles more dropped by his receivers, Clint Trickett left the Georgia Dome convinced West Virginia’s offense was back in the fast lane.
“We know we can drive on anyone,” he said.
For periods of Saturday’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff game, Alabama certainly believed him.
Trickett picked apart the defense picked to win the almighty SEC. He established a lethal connection with Kevin White while hitting on 29-of-45 passes overall. Yet he shrugged off at least six drops that could have made the final minutes of a 33-23 loss more dramatic.
A third-down throw ricocheted off Shelton Gibson’s shoulder pads. A swing pass eluded Dreamius Smith in the flat. Devonte Mathis fought a ball to the turf. Jordan Thompson made a tremendous tumbling catch yet flubbed an easier one. An uncovered Elijah Wellman got two hands around a knee-high pass that fell incomplete at the goal line. Daikiel Shorts lifted his hands too late on a fourth-quarter slant.
Yet Trickett wasn’t belly-aching.
“It’s the first game of the year: If I get on them, who knows what it’s going to do to the rest of the year,” he said. “They’re going to make those plays. I know they are.
“I probably could have put the ball in better places, and I didn’t. The last throw to Daikiel was 100-percent on me, and so was Eli’s.”
From the perch in the offensive coordinator’s booth, Shannon Dawson saw quicker, more accurate decisions from his quarterback. (“I thought the ball went to the right place the majority of the time.”) From the postgame interactioh, he saw clearer evidence that more touchdowns lie ahead. (“We’ve got a lot to build on. Clint’s a talented kid with a huge heart. The chemistry of that group is good.”)
The performance against Alabama validated what Trickett saw during a month of preseaon practices: WVU starting to resemble the Dana Holgorsen offenses of years before 2013.
“We played decent tonight, but not good enough to win the game. That’s the bottom line,” Trickett said. “A lot of people were probably surprised by how well we played, but we weren’t.”