ATLANTA — Live updates from the air-conditioned Georgia Dome, where the Mountaineers and Crimson Tide play tackle football for the rights to grab the Chick-fil-A leather helmet:
• I’m heading to locker room where it should be intriguing to see how the Mountaineers feel about today’s battle against the nation’s No. 2-ranked team,
• After an Alabama punt, WVU needs two scores in the final two minutes. Trickett is sacked and WVU turns it over on downs with 1:05 to play.
• Trailing by two scores, Trickett and the Mountaineers go three-and-out—and once again a catchable pass went uncaught as Daikiel Shorts couldn’t handle a slightly high throw at the sticks. Shorts has been held without a catch today.
SCORE: Adam Griffith 45-yard field goal. (8:07 Fourth Quarter) ALABAMA LEADS 33-23 Alabama surpassed 500 yards on the day but bogged down inside the West Virginia 30 after Christion Jones dropped a Sims pass near the first-down marker. Griffith delivered again with a well struck kick.
• Daryl Worley provides the game’s first turnover by intercepting Sims as Bama targets tight end O.J. Howard for the first time. But there was a holding flag on the return and WVU subsequently went three-and-out thanks to Landon Collins jolting Jordan Thompson on a third-down seam route.
SCORE: Josh Lambert 41-yard field goal. (2:45 Third Quarter) ALABAMA LEADS 27-20 Tyler Orlosky’s first errant snap of the day sails over Trickett’s head for a 19-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 5. Trickett previously extended the drive with a 25-yard pass to White, who’s having a monster day. WVU had a gimme TD on the next snap but Elijah Wellman dropped Trickett’s knee-high throw at the goal line.
• WVU’s top offensive lineman Quinton Spain went down with an undisclosed injury as WVU moved into scoring territory.
SCORE: Adam Griffith 27-yard field goal. (1:27 Third Quarter) ALABAMA LEADS 30-20 Alabama moved 64 yards in nine plays over 3:32—a drive extended by a questionable unsportsmanlike conduct flag on third down after Blake Sims scrambled out of bounds short of the marker. After WVU stopped Yeldon a third-and-2 at the 10, Nick Saban passed up fourth-and-inches to kick the chippie.
SCORE: Josh Lambert 42-yard field goal. (2:45 Third Quarter) ALABAMA LEADS 27-20 Another West Virginia scoring threat evaporates with another drop—this time Jordan Thompson failing to clutch Trickett’s third-and-8 pass. Lambert salvages three points by drilling a 42-yarder.
SCORE: Derrick Henry 19-yard run. (7:44 Third Quarter) ALABAMA LEADS 27-17 The Tide goes 60 yards in seven plays, with Henry doing the heavy lifting—picking up 44 on three carries. On the touchdown run, WVU’s Golson and Hyman were pancaked by the left side of the Bama line.
• WVU answers with a 26-yard hookup from Trickett to Kevin White, but freshman Shelton Gibson drops a third-down pass at the Bama 20. Josh Lambert mishit a potential tying field goal from 47 yards.
• Brandon Golson becomes the fourth WVU defensive starter to miss action with an injury, but Bama fails to capitalize. Sims overthrows Cooper on fourth-and-6 from the Mountaineers 36.
• WVU Mike linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski was FLATTENED by Amari Cooper on crack-back block that looked legal because the Cooper put his shoulder squarely in Kwiatkoski’s chest. That means redshirt freshman Al-Rasheed Benton takes a couple snaps before Kwiatkoski returns.
• QB comparison: Despite being victimized by two drops, Trickett is 13-of-22 for 168 yards and one TD. Alabama’s Blake Sims is 15-of-19 for 165 yards but hasn’t looked that good—which sounds ridiculous given the completion percentage. His two misfires were pretty egregious and he has been behind a couple other attempts. Still, he has Alabama on pace for 40 points, so not a bad start.
• Amari Cooper has eight catches for 86 yards working against Daryl Worley, and Kevin White owns four catches for 69 yards and a score.
• Halftime yardage totals: West Virginia with 216 and Alabama with 284.
• END FIRST HALF: Whew—we just saw 17 points in the final 1:57.
SCORE: Adam Griffith 41-yard field goal. (0:00 Second Quarter) ALABAMA LEADS 20-17 After Alford’s momentum-stealing runback, Alabama countered with a two-minute offense. Sims was 4-for-4 for 28 yards on the drive and contributed a 21-yard scramble to set up the kick.
SCORE: Mario Alford 100-yard kick return. (1:43 Second Quarter) GAME TIED 17-17 West Virginia hadn’t done much on its first three kick returns until Alford burst out of congestion in the middle of the field and jetted down the right sideline for the longest return in Chick-fil-A Kickoff history. That probably means free nuggets for life.
SCORE: T.J. Yeldon 1-yard run. (1:57 Second Quarter) ALABAMA LEADS 17-10 DeAndrew White turned in a remarkable solo effort by dipsey-dooing his way through the WVU defense for 38 yards on a third-and-13 pass.
• West Virginia starts at its own 6 after Jordan Thompson makes a Jim Edmonds-style over-the-shoulder catch on a 62-yard punt. The Mountaineers pick up a first down a tough run by Rushel Shell but ultimately punt after Devonte Mathis and Dreamius Smith drop back-to-back passes.
• Bama goes three-and-out after Sims badly misses the wide-open DeAndrew White on a rollout.
SCORE: Clint Trickett 19-yard pass to Kevin White. (11:58 Second Quarter) GAME TIED 10-10 Trickett found White isolated on the 5-11 Sylve and the big receiver made a snag in the deep corner. Trickett also dumped a 10-yard pas to Elijah Wellman on a third-and-2, part of WVU’s 75-yard, nine-play answer.
SCORE: T.J. Yeldon 15-yard run. (14:11 Second Quarter) ALABAMA LEADS 10-3 With WVU unable to get much pressure, Blake Sims converts a third-down throw to Cooper and scrambles for another first. He also buys time before lobbing a 22-yarder to Christion Jones. That set up Yeldon’s off-tackle scoring run, which capped 14-play 95-yard drive that chewed up nearly seven minutes.
• END OF FIRST QUARTER: West Virginia leads 109-95 in total offense.
• WVU defensive end Dontrill Hyman and cornerback Terrell Chestnut limp off on the same series. Hyman returned a few plays later, but Travis Bell still subbing for Chestnut.
• West Virginia’s left offensive tackle Adam Pankey, making his first start, allows Tide defensive end Xzavier Dickson to come free of the edge and drop Trickett on third down. That ends WVU’s second series, though the Mountaineers picked up two first downs and pinned Bama at its own 5 after an illegal block in the back flag.
SCORE: Adam Griffith 47-yard field goal (8:18 First Quarter) GAME TIED 3-3 So much for Blake Sims simply being a handoff machine. On the first snap, he flips a quick screen to Amari Cooper that goes for 24 yards, aided by DeAndrew White’s block on Daryl Worley. Sims was 3-of-4 on his first series as a starter, but his misfire was big—underthrowing Cooper on a third-and-4 crossing route.
SCORE: Josh Lambert 20-yard field goal (10:58 First Quarter) WVU LEADS 3-0 The Mountaineers took the opening drive 79 yards in 14 plays, utilizing 4:02. Kevin White picked up 29 on a quick pop after Tide cornerback Bradley Sylve falls down, but WVU found some holes on inside runs by Rushel Shell. On third-and-goal from the 3, Clint Trickett’s fade pass to Mario Alford was closely covered by Cyrus Jones.
• OMG! Thousands of Chick-fil-A cows parachuting from the rafters of the Georgia Dome as the teams run out. BRANDING!!!!! (Confetti will feel so bland for the rest of my life.)
• As you learned during the MetroNews pregame show, the Crimson Tide has won 60 of its last 61 games when rushing for 140 yards. WVU’s 3-3-5 “don’t call it a stack” defense must force Blake Sims into passing when he doesn’t want to do so.
• The fifth-year senior Sims has officially been named Alabama’s starting QB, a tidbit that leaked out midweek. I would be surprised if Jacob Coker doesn’t see action in the first half, however.
• Clint Trickett likes fielding punts in warmups, always has. Maybe that’s where William Crest gets it.
• A near sellout expected today, and West Virginia figures to have 25,000 to 30,000 on hand. Definitely a bowl-game atmosphere inside the dome—far more energy than Ole Miss-Boise State game delivered on Thursday.