ATLANTA – West Virginia sent waves of rushers at the new Alabama quarterback, and Blake Sims kept dodging them.

The replacement for the Crimson Tide’s all-time wins leader A.J. McCarron made enough throws from the pocket and sidestepped blitzers when they came free. Sims threw for 250 yards and ran for 42, which was more than West Virginia amassed as a team.

“He was a little more elusive than I thought,” said Tony Gibson, the Mountaineers’ first-time defensive coordinator.

MORE: WVU-Alabama boxscore

West Virginia, needing to ramp up its sack totals from the previous two seasons, didn’t record a sack in losing 33-23 to No. 2 Alabama on Saturday. There were several occasions, however, when Gibson seemed certain Sims was in trouble.

“We could’ve had five sacks on the kid, but he slipped off,” Gibson said. “We were clean on three blitzes, really dialed in. We had a corner blitz we missed and K.J. (Dillon) had him two or three different times. We’ve got to make those plays.”

With Sims wriggling free, Alabama’s offense put up 538 yards—an average of 6.6 per play. The fifth-year quarterback heavily favored All-American receiver Amari Cooper, who put up 130 yards while catching 12 of Sims’ 24 completions.

Of course, Sims’ first significant game experience was assisted by the Tide’s running back tandem of T.J.Yeldon and Derrick Henry, who combined for 245 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries. They helped Alabama to a wide margin in possession—37:47 to 22:13—which included more than 10 minutes in the fourth quarter.

“That’s 82 plays for Alabama, and they probably averaged 65 a year ago,” Gibson said. “When they run 82 plays, and you get pounded on, I’m sure our front six guys are hurting right now.”

After the Tide converted 9-of-16 third downs, Gibson said WVU’s execution didn’t match its effort.

“I’m disappointed—I thought that we would execute better,” Gibson said. “I think we played hard, but we didn’t play smart all the time.”

Missed tackles: No play befuddled Gibson more than the seemingly harmless dump pass Sims threw to DeAndrew White on third-and-13 before halftime. The Alabama receiver juked and danced his way through the defense for a 38-yard gain that led to the go-ahead field goal at 20-17.

“We play zone and drop eight and we missed six tackles on one play,” Gibson said. “That play right there just broke our back—we had all the momentum. It was 17-17 and we just didn’t make a play.”

Saban nearly pulled Sims: Though Sims appeared to be Alabama’s clear-cut No. 1 quarterback, Saban said he considered inserting Florida State transfer Jacob Coker during the first half.

“Blake got a little bit rattled, all right, and I told Jake, ‘Get loosened up. If he doesn’t settle down, we’re going to have to put you in the game,'” Saban said.

Though Sims was 15-of-19 passing in the first half, his confusion over communication worried Saban.

“He called a couple formations wrong in the huddle, he called a couple plays wrong,” Saban said. “We had to burn a couple timeouts. We went down to one on the shot clock a couple times. There was confusion on the field. That’s when I said to Lane, I said, ‘Hey, let’s just go no‑huddle and it’ll make it a lot simpler for him,’ and when we did that, he sort of got it back together and then he was fine after that.”

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  • pat oslon

    I got my money's worth. The game was very entertaining & both teams played hard. WVU passing attack & Bama's run game were on point most of the game. It was a rare 1st game where the offenses appeared to be ahead of the defense. Good luck to all going forward.

  • Evan Nutter

    Never understand the "this is the first game, so we aren't where we need to be yet" talk that comes from top teams after they fail to crush an opening opponent. Wasn't this WVU's first game as well? Isn't it almost always the first game for both teams?

  • spctre

    I'll give WVU a lot of credit for hanging with Bama but make no mistake, this Bama team is not playing at a #2 level at this point. I hope WVU proves me wrong by having a stella year but regardless..... GOOD LUCK !!

  • John Stephens

    What a great game to be a part off! We really enjoyed hanging out and talking to all the West Virginia fans before and after the game. Lots of respect to West Virginia and all their great fans. I would love a home and home series. We would love to travel to West Virginia to be a part of the tailgate scene and soak up a great game atmosphere. Good luck the rest of the year. I see West Virgina in a bowl game and contending for a conference championship.

  • BamaFam

    Hey I knew WVU had a much improved team going in and told everyone at my gathering several hours before kick that Bama would not trounce this WVU team. Congrats on a hard fought game and on having some of the classiest opposing team fans I've ever had the pleasure of sharing a section with. You've got a solid team and a great coach - good luck with the rest of your season!

  • Independent View

    Yesterday's broadcast of the game was, in my view, the most biased coverage by football commentators that I've ever heard! Griese and the other Numb N**S were just gushing over Alabama and Kiffen. Split screen shots of Kiffen like he was some football god that had returned from a hiatus? That guy has been a failure everywhere he has been. Took the Tennessee Head Coaching job and said it was his dream job of a lifetime then, days later when he was offered the USC job he turned his back on TN and ran. He was fired at USC and lands at Alabama. I predict that he will implode at Alabama because his massive ego will not mesh with Lou Saban!
    In summary, Griese and the other Numb N**S acted as the Press Booth's cheering section. It was if Alabama was the only team on the field. No credit for what WV accomplished--gave Alabama all they wanted! I doubt that many other teams would have faired as well against Alabama, but no love from those two creeps. Absolutely, the worst football TV coverage that I have ever witnessed!
    The next time Griese and Numb N**S are broadcasting a WVU game, I'll mute it and listen to Tony. Disgusting!

    • Naomi

      Lou Saban?

    • Old timer

      Have a little cheese with your whine

  • Trouble

    Bama fan here. Congrats on a gutsy performance by the Mountaineers. It was closer than almost anyone thought it would be, except for maybe Nick Saban, who said he expected a hard fought game. But not for a few dropped passes the outcome could have been much different. I know that's little consolation because football fans don't want to hear about "almost" or "moral victories", but WVU will make some noise in the Big 12 this year. Much respect from this Bama fan.

  • Robin

    Maybe we should call it like it is. We lost and they won.

    • canitb

      i like your approach.
      look up at the scoreboard. it never lies and tells you what really counts.
      Classy post.
      you all will have your day.

  • College Ave

    It's always fun to read all of the "Let's focus on the positive" reactions after yet another loss...

    Just hand out participation awards and juice boxes and be done with all that silly stuff about wins and losses.

    • College Ave

      Oh, and always remember to blame the officiating and gripe about the play-by-play announcer's and color commentator's biases and ignore WVU's mistakes that actually affected the outcome, like incomplete passes that literally hit receivers on the numbers and taking a sack with the clock winding down.

      • Shadow

        I guess I have to read up on Pass Interference. I thought it was called if you had hands on the receiver. One call on WVU and two missed on AL Then, there was the Unsportmanlike call 10 feet from the sidelines. It seems to me that all the bad calls are always for the favorite. Sadlly, all it takes is one bad call to turn around a game.

      • Jesse's girl

        There are 49 other states (or 56 if you are an Obama sycophant)--choose one.

        In addition, there are myriad other schools to attend or follow. Get busy.....

        • College Ave

          Bless your heart, Jesse's girl.

          I was born here in WV nearly a half-century ago and choose to stay.

          I hold undergraduate and graduate degrees from West Virginia University.

          I've earned the right to say out loud that my alma mater isn't putting a quality product on the football field and that I'm not satisfied with moral victories.

          • College Ave

            And when it comes to politics, poor ol' Jesse's girl, trust me -- there's a good chance that I'm the more conservative of the two of us.

            And since you like to make some awkward bridge between football and politics, I suggest the "It's ok, boys! You're all winners!" standard leans liberal.

        • Gary Ray

          This is sports, not politics, just because you don't know how many States we have, Obama is President, NOW, lets get back to our favorite topic WVU, they played well-not great, I saw alot of improvrment and have a better feeling about our up coming season. We had them worried the whole game because we were never out of it! Gooo Mountainers!

  • Ron - from Morgantown

    WVU gave all that they could give and were highly motivated and played with sportsmanship . That personal foul call was pure garbage . At some point I know we need to win football games but I can't help but think that the performance we gave tonight impressed football fans all over America . Our BB team can learn how to play with gritty determination by watching this performance . Alabama knows they came close to losing not only a game but their entire season tonight . I loved our effort . Go ahead B12 - I dare you to put that Oklahoma game at night - 8 pm Mountaineer Field . We destroy Oklahoma .

  • Shepherd

    This site seems like the abc coverage. All Alabama.
    Let's here what WVU did right. I was impressed against #2.

    • canitb

      frankly i was impressed too. good luck.
      like your coach.

    • Ron - from Morgantown

      Let me give you one. A kid from Preston County who loves WVU and the great state of West Virginia came close to leading his team to one of the greatest upsets in college football history . Clint is
      a humble kid who has endured plenty of criticism . He has handled it with class . I feel good about the rest of the season . Don't wish you life away , enjoy the precious present and watch WVU win the B12 .

  • Mike

    ABC sure loves Kiffin. Split screens of him on the sideline while a live play is going on. Are you kidding me? Ridiculous!

    • Silas Lynch

      I agree, it was ridiculous!

    • Tim C

      ESPN thinks Kiffin is "god like" to say the least. He's been a failure everywhere he's been. I've never seen more biased coverage of a man and a team than I saw yesterday. The Mounties played 'em tough yesterday and if we punch in those two drives that ended inside the five yard line and avoid those two imaginary penalties when we had Alabama stopped, we could be talking about a victory today.

    • Ron - from Morgantown

      Ya your right , a million shots of Lane , I think they needed to do split screen because we play so quick they couldn't do it any other way . But why so many Lane shots ? The guy has done nothing professionally . It's like the love affair with Charlie at Kansas .

  • uncle phil

    Allan Taylor's love affair with Alabama continues.

    Hey Allan...what's the next article? How about those 'Bama running backs?

  • Ole Sasquatch

    Gibson how could you be so dumb. You teach those kids to run in there off the corner at full speed. Common sense and experience tells me those last few steps in order to tackle the QB may have to be adjustments when he sees me at the last second. If I slow down just a little I can make those adjustments and get the tackle. What does Gibson & Co. teach: Get in there as fast as possible. Then after the game tell them they missed the tackle. Just doing what you idiots tell them in practice.
    Just watched Oklahoma ST. def. Their pass defense is all over those Florida St. receivers our pass defense is taught to stand back and give them room to catch it from what I see.

  • Billy

    We're there any WVU players with significant injuries? If not that is a victory in itself.

    • Ole Sasquatch

      Your like Holgorsen - too easily satisfied.

      • Billy

        Satisfied? Not hardly. Just hoping that injuries do not have an adverse effect like last year. If you have not noticed, I totally disagree with both the luck and holgy hires.

        • Ole Sasquatch

          Good coaches have players in good enough shape that they don't incur a lot of injuries like Coach Rod - his teams were in shape. Look how many times he ran his QBs' they rarely got hurt. You know the reason our offensive line could'nt run block in the second half?
          They were out of shape and that's when most players get hurt. Our coaches in general are not up to WVU standards.

          • Ole Sasquatch

            AP, UPI, ESPN all kept us in the top 10 Kevin. Look I'm trying to be objective here. It was real - we were living the dream - it just got to be too much success for a certain loud sector of our fan base to adjust to and they started throwing things and making juvenile threats. Having played and coached myself for years any team can knock you off - Pitt was not a bad team. Too many childish people freaked. Now you see how long it is gone to be till we get back there. We made a mistake and we are in a long period of having to live with it.

          • kevin

            We lived in the Big East Sasquatch. THAT was the difference. Those teams would have been no better than 7-5 most years in the Big 12. Those teams could play with ANYONE in a bowl type setting, but week in/week out? I dont think so......

          • Ole Sasquatch

            We lived in the top 10 Kevin.

          • kevin

            Yea, sooo in shape they couldn't beat a 3-8 Pitt team to play for the nation championship. Nor could they go down to USF without getting gassed before halftime. Dont come here with that "Dana's teams are out of shape" BS. They held up just fine. The original post was likely referring more so towards Squirt getting lit up by Collins and/or Hyman's injury.....

          • Ole Sasquatch

            What's Dana's program. Best I can tell so far is start out strong and go down hill thereafter.

          • Ole Sasquatch

            Speellin Powice

          • Jed

            Ole Sasquatch, you know why your posts are so lame? You can't spell.

            1. It's "you're".
            2. It's "didn't".
            3. Your sentences don't make much sense because of your poor punctuation .... and you've got the nerve to call our coaches dumb?

          • Charles

            How many times did rich's teams play up??? Which means above their rank or stature? I can answer. 5 times maybe. Dana's has many more times I. 4 years. These kids are fine. And will be fine. Dana has built a program