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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    Great Game much improvement is good to see....the call on the out of bounds play was a big fat joke...kinda like fat william in his mommies basement...well..not that bad...turned the whole game though....and I thought the Alabama network did a great job covering the game.

    Lets Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Mountaineers!!!!!!


    The Fade a haircut and as a pass play...wasted down...except for the 3 % of the time it works.

  • DP

    william-Your comment "I'M LOVIN' IT": I'm wondering if this applies as much as when you and your BOYFRIEND(s) have whatever type of kinky sex a creep like you is into.

    Now that I have that off of my mind, a few game comments. Allan, as usual, a very fair and impartial column. At least a half dozen dropped passes by WV receivers prevented us from winning the game. Granted, our defense wasn't exemplary but if the receivers catch those passes, our offense is on the field longer, our defense is not on the field for nearly as long, and we definitely would have scored more. The referees ABSOLUTELY SUCKED!!! I almost never complain about the officiating, but the calls against WV and non calls against Alabama were absolutely disgraceful!!! The two know nothing commentators were sickening! Neither had the gonads to question the officiating and it seemed as if they were former Bama players (although I know they aren't)

    I told numerous friends prior to the game I hoped WV would be competitive and I could accept a loss if we were. But, I was SICK after the game as this was one WV easily could have one!!! What helped in accepting the defeat was I won a whole bunch of money taking the points!

    • Mark

      Brian Griese was actually a starting QB at Alabama.

  • Morganeer

    1/2 or more of rhe Mounties Big 12 opponents this year are as good or better than BAMA - it will be another long season for WVU and the Black Shirt

    • Mister Man

      No they aren't. Maybe two.

  • Counter Trey

    @ Billy
    I didn't think he was actually sending in signals during the Big12 commercial. Or during the interviews.

    Coach Huggins and Billy Hahn wear this s--t too, and they're not sending in signals.

    Hairstyles and whether a coach might be overweight has no bearing on a Coach's
    role in representing the university.Wearing a white flying WV on a black shirt does. That's just the way I see it.

    But it's no reflection on their coaching abilities.

  • susanf1218

    On a completely unrelated note, Clint Trickett has nice hair! Unlike Holgerson whose hair (or what's left of it) is always sticking up and out in all directions and makes him look like Curly from the Three Stooges. Someone please convince him to at least cover up that mess on his head w/a WVU hat, since he won't wear the school logo or colors in his choice of shirts.

    • tbow

      u need to know your 3 stooges-curly is bald-It's Larry with the frizzed out hair.

      • susanf1218

        Oops! My mistake! Thanks for the correction!

    • Beaver Sniffer

      I've got nice long wavy black hair...interested?

    • betty

      I like his hair! He's different - leave it that way!

    • MonicaMountaineer

      I know girl! Clint is just dreamy!!! Is he single? He'd make a great catch.

  • susanf1218

    And on a completely irrelevant note - Clint Trickett has nice hair! Unlike Holgerson, whose hair (or what's left of it) is always sticking up and out and is completely a mess - reminds me of Curly from the 3 Stooges! Someone please convince the dude to at least wear a WVU hat, if he won't wear the school colors so he can cover up that mess going on up there on his head!

  • WV Man

    Good game, Mounties. But where is the running game?

    • tsquare

      No one runs against Bama.

  • Frank Boso

    A generally good showing by the team, better than expected. If we play at this level the rest of the season, 8/9 victories seem possible. I cringed every time one of our receivers dropped key pass, hafta improve in this area.


  • Counter Trey

    My thing about "fashion" is that, to me, it IS about loyalty and football. When DH wears those colors, to me it says he cares more about DH than WVU. No pride in the school. No pride in tradition. Maybe your point is that uni's have nothing to do with tradition? Or are you saying that unlike Alabama, OSU, Auburn, USC and Oklahoma, we have no tradition to be proud of? I beg to differ. Is it the biggest issue in the world? No. Just bugs the heck out of me because I think pride and tradition are important parts if college football and representing the school.

    • Billly

      You are a idiot, he wears black so the QB can pick him out of the crowd and get signals... Pathetic complaint

      • Red Dwarf

        Billly, thank THANK you! I've been trying to explain the same thing to the Sunday Morning Quarterbacks since Dana has been here. The idea of making the coaches easier for the players on the field to see isn't new. But so many people do not understand that visibility and communication is vital between the players and coaches in a game. If Dana was wearing Old Gold and Blue, Counter Trey would find something else to complain about.

  • Wirerowe

    We generally played well. My impression is that our running game will be better trickett is better ,pass protection is betterand our secondary is better. Three of those betters are on offense,Concern as with any of our recent teams is a pass rush without having to send the kitchen sink and getting into the end zone when we are close and we still gave up 573 yards.

  • Moutain Navy

    They did better than I expected them to. A lot of people lost a lot of money on the spread.

  • Bill

    Sweet Home Alabama.

  • Counter Trey

    The uniforms and school colors: yes Holgorsen said he wears black and (silver?) (white?) so the QB can see him on the sidelines. Sorry that's horse-hockey. Because he wears that for pressers, other photo ops etc. Plus the Big12 commercial where the all the coaches are shown wearing the colors except one.
    As for the whites: Just wear gold pants, blue helmets and blue/white tops home/away. Very good-looking uniforms!
    Does Bama change their uni's? Does Ohio State? USC? Michigan? Auburn? Oklahoma? Oregan gets a pass- they started it. FSU's change was hideous. End of story.

    • WV project Runway

      CT, ever thought of working in the fashion industry? Seem to have an eye for color, although, we are talking about football here.;-)

  • Rich

    Good, solid effort by WVU yesterday. As fans we shouldn't believe in moral victories. Someone asked me a few days before the game how I thought we would do. I said the defense would be improved, we play with them for a few quarters and then lose by 10-14 pts. My logic was how are we gonna score? Offense moved the ball between the 20s, Trickett betrayed by several key drops, we kicked 3 FG, had a KO return (huge, kept us in the game on the scoreboard and emotionally) and Kevin White made an uncharacteristic tough catch in the end zone. D played well but Bama is Bama, they run the ball on anyone which sets up their play action. We struggled to cover Cooper which I assumed we would. How will the improved D hold up when the face the spread attacks of the Big 12? Can the offense get into the red zone and score TDs? I still feel 6-6 is a successful season.