ATLANTA — Dana Holgorsen said West Virginia wasn’t interested in a moral victory, but as a measure of morale, Saturday night’s loss to Alabama proved very interesting indeed.

Being steamrolled by Bama would have choked the oxygen out of this program, would have undercut all the offseason rhetoric and reinforced the inferiority complex. Some suspected that locking pads with America’s No. 2 team would make the Mountaineers feel more out-of-place than the DragonCon guy sweating through downtown Atlanta covered in Groot bark.

Instead, West Virginia found itself nearly poised for a galactic upset, and Nick Saban actually questioned whether the mismatch storyline fit at all.

USA Today Sports

West Virginia’s Jordan Thompson makes a lunging 32-yard catch over Alabama cornerback Brandon Sylve. The Mountaineers fell 33-23.

“I really thought West Virginia had a lot better team than anybody thought, and like you (media) all do, which I love you for doing it, is you create perceptions,” he said. “Your perception is we’re really good and they’re not so good, so we’re going to come into this game and everybody’s expectation is it’s going to be a one‑sided, lopsided game. I never thought that at all.”

Nevermind that West Virginia dropped nearly as many games last year as Alabama lost in the last seven years. What matters currently is that WVU doesn’t repeat the debacle. And taken in full context, a 33-23 loss in a game financed by Chick-fil-A nuggets delivered more sweet sauce than sour.

Clint Trickett’s 365 passing yards were the third most allowed by Alabama in the Saban Era, a performance dramatically smoother than anything delivered in 2013. Holgorsen was especially appreciative: “It’s nice to be able to signal things once and to communicate what we’re wanting on the sidelines without having to scream it at him or call time‑out or whatever.”

The screaming instead came from Saban and Kirby Smart, who noticed linebackers and defensive backs flummoxed as WVU racked up 17 completions of 10 yards or more. The Tide often did less to thwart drives than did Trickett’s own receivers, whose six drops included five on possession downs.

Kevin White was not one of those offenders, racking up a career-best 143 yards on nine catches—a couple with high-degree of difficulty.

“I want to be physical, I want to get all the jump balls. I want to catch every ball that comes my way,” White said. “Hopefully you guys will see a lot of that this season.”

And Holgorsen is hopeful WVU improves its red-zone touchdown proficiency. One drive frittered out at the 3 when Trickett went away from White’s size advantage and tried a fade-rout to 5-foot-10 Mario Alford on the opposite side. A fourth-quarter series reached the 5-yard-line only to see Tyler Orlosky flip a shotgun snap over Trickett’s head back to the 24.

“I thought we did a good job moving the ball in the open field, but at some point you’ve got to be able to convert those into touchdowns,” said Holgorsen. “You play against a really good team and you’re in position in the fourth quarter to be able to win the game. You don’t have those opportunities very often.”

If respect equates to currency, then WVU certainly is richer after its Chick-fil-A experience. Yet this program cannot overlook the fact it heads into next week’s home opener on a four-game losing skid and having dropped seven of eight.

A decent showing against Alabama didn’t single-handedly right the team’s trajectory. “We’re not interested in moral victories,” Holgorsen noted. “We don’t want pats on the back.”

This time a year ago, the Mountaineers left Norman, Okla., feeling an opportunity had eluded them, and indeed it had. The Sooners were vulnerable that night, just as the Tide was Saturday.

Now, as it was then, the Mountaineers must prove they’re capable of consistently playing up to top competition, and not just kidding themselves when the top teams play down to their level.

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  • Interperception

    Once again 2nd half performance, particularly the 4th quarter, will remain an area of concern for the program.

  • Gary

    Defense is just as bad as last year. Alabama isn't a number 2 team. West Virginia had its chances but no defense , blown calls, dropped passes and the sorry play calling the 2 last times West Virginia had the ball trying to run when they should have been passing. Looks like another long year with no defense and sorry play calling and no rushing.

    • El Supremo

      Great points. I too must agree that Alabama is NOT as strong as the media would have you believe. I see them possibly losing at least two games and NOT one of the four teams in the playoffs.

    • Dave

      Gary Davis?????????????

  • susanf1218

    Clint Trickett's performance was impressive. He showed poise and confidence and never seemed to get rattled by the pressure. And the O-line did a decent job of protecting him. As long as he stays healthy, I think he will turn out to be the QB we need. All in all, they played very well and if not for a couple of dropped passes and 1 or 2 failures to convert on downs . . . AND very questionable penalties certainly didn't help our chances! My only argument is w/the play calls in the last 2 minutes of the game - seriously, Holgerson?? You decide THEN to run the ball for short yardage gains and burn downs with the clock ticking?? The team had gained good yardage with successful passing up til that point. When the clock is NOT in your favor, WHY do you decide to switch to a running game?? Is Holgerson having the same issue w/time management that he did last season? Oh well, it was a better game than expected, so I am o.k. w/the loss.

  • Burke

    The Mountaineers must learn to expect success even when the situation may "seem" bleak. Maintaining a mental preparation for success will help the team to capitalize on an opportunity when it is unexpectedly given to them on the 49. the Mountaineers were presented with a golden opportunity to affect momentum at a critical juncture in the game but they failed in their preparation. Thus, the ball and the momentum were returned to the tide.

  • El Supremo

    I noted that Mr. Taylor neglected to mention the lack of a running game. Once a offense gets inside the Red Zone, the DBs have less area to cover and therefore a big back that can gain 3 to 5 yards a carry is necessary.
    My statistics indicate that WVU ran the ball 24 times for a total of 28 yards. How many Big XII teams have already noted Holgorsen's one dimension offense. As a comparison, Alabama ran the ball 49 times for 288 yards. The running game also allowed 'Bama to 15 and 1/2 minutes longer. A defensive line needs a break, not a pounding.

    • Ole Sasquatch

      You got it El Supremo. You have hit the nail on the head sir. What I can't understand is why nearly everyone else wants to ignore this 600 lb elephant in the room. Including the Coaches!
      Anyway GREAT comment.

  • Big T

    We still need a ground game though.

  • MointainMover

    Well said Allan. One footnote to your analysis. WVU had no turnovers. If they continue to take care of the ball they should be in position to win any game.

  • Ducks In A Row

    It's indisputable, we're a better team than we're given credit for. Had we converted the first field goal into a TD, converted one of the red zone flops in a score, we would have won this game.

    We need a better pass rush, the o-line needs tweaked a little more and the LB's and DB's need to quit allowing so much cushion to the receivers.

    Bad officiating, period!

    Overall, it was a good game and we are going to shock some teams this year.

    Let's Go Mountaineers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Robin

    The team did drop some passes. There were some mistakes. There were some very questionable calls by the men in stripes.

    However, Allan if you get the opportunity will you ask DH why he called a running play on first down every single possession of the second half? Alabama was stacking the box and yet there was a running play on first down every single time we took possession of the ball.

    Finally, I watched quite a few games this weekend and the coaches all wore their team colors, except for DH. What is the reason? Did someone tell him he did not look good in blue as a kid? Does he dislike the color gold?


    • Aaron

      "Allan if you get the opportunity will you ask DH why he called a running play on first down every single possession of the second half?"

      Why would Taylor ask Coach Holgorsen about something that simply did not happen. WVU had 7 drives in the 2nd half, 5 of which were completed passes on the first play from scrimmage.

    • Aaron

      "...coaches all wore their team colors, except for DH. What is the reason?"

      Actually Dana explained it 3 or 4 years ago. His response to that question was that he wasn't players to be able to find him immediately when they look to the sidelines. The darker shirt seems to work.

      What baffles me is why so many posters worry about the color of his and Coach Huggins attire is.

      • Mike

        Because our colors are blue and gold. And he's the coach. What is so baffling about that?

    • Mountaineer

      Dana was wearing a dark blue shirt. If you were at the game you would have know that.

  • Ole Sasquatch

    You're going to keep hearing it from me - the offensive line is the key to our season - they must be consistent in the running along with the passing game. Passing game depends on it, defense depends on it, winning vs. losing depends on it.

  • william

    WVU losses, and fans say it was a Great game.
    Wow, WVU fans now think losing is OK.
    I have never seen so many fans cry and whine about this game, I think I need to send some of them DIAPERS!
    How sad is that?
    and yes,

    • george

      You must be a Marshall fan-------pathetic with a crappy personality..............

    • the flying dutchman

      if anyone would know about would be you. thanks for sharing your hate....we do appreciate the effort because it's a good example of what most people don't want to be. i have a suggestion...since you hate wvu so much...pick another team...i'm sure you'll be welcomed with open arms.

  • George

    Since Alabama is the #2 team in the Country, WVU must be #4. We played more like a #4 team than an unranked one//Or maybe the Big 12 Conference is tougher than we think.......................................

    • Silas Lynch

      None of the Above

  • rick sockman

    Alabama is way overrated...W v has a better than average team this year...need lot of work on catching pass's though...To bad the only thing the announcers could talk about or show was Alabama's quarterback Sims and their offensive coordinator....W v never gets credit for anything. Time will tell...I think we got beat up a bit the second half physically...time will tell soon enough.

    • College Ave

      Yep, the entire college sports world has it out for WVU.

      Win games and the respect will come.

  • College Ave

    I couldn't agree more with Coach Holgerson -- moral victories aren't the goal. Twelve moral victories give you an 0-12 record.

    And about some moral victory from this game, it's probably not as much of one as some would like -- this year's Crimson Tide isn't a national championship team.

  • rekterx

    "I thought this game was going to be exactly like it was," Saban said. "I really thought West Virginia had a better team than anybody thought.You [media] create perceptions, and your perceptions are that we're really good, and they're not so good, so we come into this game with everybody's expectation that it's going to be a one-sided, lopsided game. I never thought that at all."

    • Ole Sasquatch