Ben Queen/WVMetroNews photo

T.J. Yeldon dives for one of his two touchdowns in Alabama’s 33-23 win over West Virginia.

 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Examining the ups-and-downs from West Virginia’s performance in a closer-than-expected 33-23 loss to No. 2 Alabama:

QUARTERBACK
Clint Trickett operated the offense at a Holgorsen-approved tempo and didn’t make a single egregious decision. He deserved a 400-yard day but settled for 365 on 29-of-45 completions.

“I was happy with Clint. I thought he played well, he competed well. He knew where to go with the ball. He got a little bit antsy back there at times and missed some throws, but when you’re looking at what he’s looking at, that’s going to happen. (Alabama is) obviously pretty good defensively and do a good job of getting to the quarterback at times.”

Trickett put the ball in play and kept it secure while absorbing three sacks. His only moment of nervous feet came on a hurried jump pass he threw behind White on a crossing route.

RUNNING BACKS
Rushel Shell gained 37 yards on his first six carries, flattening Tide linebacker Reuben Foster on a pile-moving 14-yarder. Bama’s defensive front tightened up in the second half, when Shell had 1 yard on four carries. Dreamius Smith was a nonfactor with 9 yards on three rushes, and Wendell Smallwood’s big-time receiving skills (six for 73 yards) compensated for a slow night running.

With the passing game clicking, WVU’s running backs were de-emphasized to 19 carries for 58 yards, and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson sensed the ratio became too unbalanced.

“If you ask me coming off the field without watching tape, we probably need to hand off the ball more,” he said. “We’ve got talented running backs, so we need to hand it to them more.”

RECEIVERS
Kevin White was extraordinary all day, Jordan Thompson made an extraordinary tumbling catch for 32 yards, and Mario Alford was functional in the quick game. But Alford dropped a screen, Thompson failed to make two catches in traffic and Daikiel Shorts failed to make any catches at all. Redshirt freshman Shelton Gibson was targeted on consecutive plays—catching the first for 4 yards and dropping the next one on a crucial third-down pass. Devonte Mathis dropped his lone target.

Looking beyond the drops, WVU’s receivers certainly showed more synchronicity with Trickett. With nine catches for 143 yards and one score, White was downright beastly, playing up to his bigness on high-lofted passes. (Alabama corner Brandon Sylve suffered the kind of abuse some Big 12 cornerbacks might face down the road.) White nearly burned Bama for a second TD before Cyrus Jones poked away a fade pass in the corner of the end zone.

Ben Queen/WVMetroNews

West Virginia receiver Kevin White gave Alabama cornerback Brandon Sylve fits during the season opener.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE
While the pass protection overall was decent most of the game—particularly considering the opponent—left tackle Adam Pankey was beaten by Xzavier Dickson for a sack and allowed Ryan Anderson to come free for a hurry.

Dickson pushed back right tackle Marquis Lucas and was credited with a second sack when Trickett was called for intentional grounding. Mark Glowinski also yielded a sack on a one-on-one move by Jonathan Allen.

Tyler Orlosky’s botched snap on third-and-goal from the 5 forced West Virginia to settle for a field goal.

Quinton Spain, after leaving briefly with an apparent arm injury, returned on WVU’s subsequent series.

With West Virginia’s throwing success leading Alabama to stick with its nickel and dime packages, it stood to reason the running game would spring some big gainers. Instead, WVU averaged only 1.2 yards per carry, and even with sacks removed, the per-carry average on designed runs was 3 yards.

“We knew that (Alabama was tough to run against), so we weren’t going to just sit there and run it into the teeth of their defense if it wasn’t very successful,” Holgorsen said.

DEFENSIVE LINE
West Virginia wasn’t able to clog Alabama’s running game, which averaged nearly 6 yards per carry behind banner days for T.J. Yeldon (132 yards) and Derrick Henry (113).

Defensive end Dontrill Hyman led the group with eight tackles but didn’t generate much penetration. The senior was pancaked by Tide freshman Cam Robinson on Henry’s 19-yard touchdown run.

“We were trying to punish them, man,” said Tide right tackle Austin Shepherd. “Every chance we got, drive them into the ground, get into their head and they’ll start thinking about it and finally they’ll wear down.”

Saturday also was a quiet debut for transfer defensive end Shaq Riddick, held in check on several pass-rushing situations. Noble Nwachukwu (five tackles) was active, and Kyle Rose (five tackles) made a third-and-2 stop on Yeldon to force a field goal in the fourth quarter.

Christian Brown (one tackle, one offside penalty) rotated snaps with Rose at the nose, while sophomore Darrien Howard did not see action.

LINEBACKERS
While the talk of camp was linebacking depth, West Virginia primarily stuck with Nick Kwiatkoski (11 tackles), Wes Tonkery (nine) and Brandon Golson (seven).

Edward Muldrow made two tackles, one on the first play after Golson left briefly with an injury. Al-Rasheed Benton subbed at Mike after Kwiatkoski was leveled by a crack-back block from Cooper.

None of the linebackers produced a TFL, though Alabama ran the ball 49 times, and Golson wasn’t a factor rushing the passer.

“Our offense did what they had to do and we couldn’t stop them when we needed to,” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, whose unit allowed 538 yards—84 more than last year’s average that ranked 101st nationally.

USA Today Sports

West Virginia’s Wes Tonkery (37) pursues Alabama quarterback Blake Sims.

 

SECONDARY
As many cornerbacks would, Worley had a hellacious time chasing Amari Cooper, who caught 12 passes for 130 yards and ran wide-open on two other occasions. (“He’s an All-American for a reason,” said Gibson.) WVU’s best corner also was among the six DBs who whiffed on DeAndrew White’s 38-yard third-down catch-and-run.

Through an otherwise tough night, Worley produced the game’s only turnover with a fourth-quarter interception. He also busted up a screen play for a 3-yard loss by slipping past Cooper’s block.

Worley’s 11 tackles were a career-high, but not even close to team leader Karl Joseph, who made 18.

Freshman free safety Dravon Henry received a ticky-tack interference call, but made six tackles, including a hit that separated White’s shoulder.

K.J. Dillon had a TFL among his six stops and several fruitless cracks at Sims as an edge blitzer. He also got lucky in deep coverage when Christion Jones dropped a 55-yard moon ball from Sims.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Alford was tackled by Bama’s Jabriel Washington on the first kick return, but the next time he slipped away from Washington and sped away for a 100-yard touchdown that tied the game at 17-all. “When I made that one guy miss, I knew it was a wrap,” Alford said.

Josh Lambert converted 3-of-4 field goals with a lone miss from 47 yards, and Nick O’Toole dropped four punts inside the 20 with no touchbacks.

Two poor returns left WVU pinned deep, however. Thompson fielded a 62-yard punt sprinting back to his 6-yard line and Shell only reached the 9 on a slow-developing kick return.

COACHING
In what could be a make-or-break season for Holgorsen, he and his offensive coaches had West Virginia in attack mode. As it turned out, WVU’s only chance was to outscore Alabama, since the defense was overmatched.

The fact the offense scored one touchdown disturbed Holgorsen, considering WVU crossed into Alabama territory on seven possessions. That gave the Mountaineers a chance in this game, something few outside the locker room believed they had.

Ben Queen/WVMetroNews photo

Dana Holgorsen had West Virginia prepared for Alabama entering the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game.

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Comments

  • Gary

    The writer didn't address the sorry play calling the two last times WV had the ball . The so called "much improved defense' didn't look any better than last year. Alabama isn't a number two team they are in rebuilding mode. WV had the Alabama quarterback rattled in first quarter. They should of blitzed more but what I saw of the blitzing WV doesn't know how they ran full speed by the man. Trickett had a good game but I want to see what happens when he gets hit a few times. WV needs a running game bad.

    • Caleb

      Our "Defense" gave up one touchdown to Bama in the whole 2nd half. got to work out first game kinks but that's impressive against Alabama.

    • Big Bigguns

      What does "should of" mean? Is English your second language?

    • Ole Sasquatch

      +1

  • any major dude

    @JTL. +1

  • jay zoom

    anyway you look at it if WVU scored 35 Alabama would of scored 36 or if they scored 70 Alabama would of scored 71 take it to the bank. Might of shown some improvement but we will see come Saturday and next Saturday as well. THANKS OLLIE

    • Geoff

      Alabama struggling against a team that hasn't won a game in 302 days says more about the direction they're headed in than it does about WVU's upward trajectory.

      • GoEers

        Hey Geoff I am sure you think you sound like a genius by pointing out that WVU hasn't won a game in 302 days. Well Florida State went ~210 games since they last won a game and Alabama went ~250 as they had lost their last 2 games.

        Please go back to the marshall boards and read about that great victory in front of 19,000 rabid fans at the U of Miami in Ohio. LOL!!

    • Grant

      You do realize that was the #2 team in the country and a program that won 3 recent national titles? Ten - twenty years ago, an average WVU team would have been blown out in those type of games. Now our average teams are competitive. We are much better than you think. That said, with this schedule, 7-5 is a very good year.

      • ViennaGuy

        Of course he realizes it. He just an Oliver Luck basher.

  • william

    Really guys, I just wish I were a WVU fan so I could root for a team that plays a real schedule. I'm sorry for the hateful comments and I hope you all forgive me. I am here every day looking for your approval. Can you throw a loser a bone?

    • Ole Sasquatch

      We just had a big meeting and we are inviting you back in. Why? Because as unbelievable as it sounds, we all feel dumber than we did the day before and our wondering how that could be possible.

  • Capt. Obvious

    a 4-8 team from last year takes the best program in the country into the 4th qtr and Allan shows improvement in only 3 of nine categories. That is laughable. Credibility fading fast.

    • Neal

      Allen gave them 3 up, 3 even, and 3 down. That's a pretty generous assessment for a team that lost the game I think. We gave up over 500 yards of offense, dropped several passes, and had a hard time running the ball. Tell me which of the categories would you change?

      • Aaron

        Given the doubt surrounding the offensive line and that units play last year, that unit was not even. They played much better than expected as was demonstrated by the fact that Clint Trickett was largely unscathed in throwing 45 times. Taylor's analysis of this unit is off.

  • JTL

    I agree with the assessment. But... It was not necessarily what we didn't do in the trenches as much as what Alabama did do. Bama's line on both sides of the ball was probably the best lines we will face all year. They disrupted our running game and didnt allow us to disrupt theirs. I'm not downing our lineman at all, we just simply got outplayed in the trenches by an Alabama line that will see a lot of their men playing on Sundays.

    I also agree with a previous poster that our drops killed is, we've got to make those catches in tight situations if we are to have success in the Big 12.

  • West By God

    This team still can't make a big play when they need it, especially on defense. WVU will play four more teams with a better offense then Alabama. I can always tell by the comments who played competitive sports and who did not! If you think what you watched on Saturday was good football your wrong. The problem last year was a defense that could not get of the field and an offense that could not finish a drive, what you got Saturday was the exact same thing. But hey we only got beat by 10, yahoo let's celebrate!

    • Ole Sasquatch

      Lot of truth to what you say.

  • joe

    William get moo u to play a real team

  • any major dude

    Despite everything, I'll concur that those dropped passes probably cost us the game.

    All coaches can do is put players in a position to be successful. They cannot actually catch passes. I put that responsibility on the players.

    Alabama overall played a good game. I think they were as good as any Big 12 team, and judging by this game I think we will be 6-6 at worst .

  • Tim C

    We played Bama tough. Were we good enough on Saturday to win? No we weren't. Are we better than last years team? You bet! The only observation I have that I believe will spell trouble is we have a tendency to place soft on pass coverage. The corners are too far off the receivers. We need to bump them at the line to disrupt the timing. The linebackers are not filling the gaps on the run plays and there is no push up front. Bama knocked our guys off the line all day long. Defense improvement is paramount if we are to be competitive this year. We can't out score everybody. Man up "D"!

    • uncle phil

      Maybe you make a good point because I admit I'm not an Xs and Os guy, but why the desperate need to bump Bama's WRs at the line? They killed us up front with the run game. I believe they averaged something like 6 yards per carry.

      Although our D struggled to stop the run and made some errors here and there, I think we did a good job. In my opinion, the "Big Play" has plagued us the last few years and I don't remember Alabama ripping off any 70 yard plays. But, we'll get the real answer soon enough when we start against Big 12 competition.

  • uncle phil

    I'm quite satisfied and this loss doesn't sting. When you take the big picture into consideration, we are a greatly improved team from last year.

    Could we run the ball? No. Could we stop the run? No. But, guess what? None of that matters if a few WRs could only have caught the ball. Our drops were the point of failure on Saturday. That means the play-calling was spot-on. The QB timing and pass were spot-on. The only failure were the hands that touched the ball. As Allan's article describes, our coaches knew the only shot we had was to make it a track meet. In the end, we simply dropped the football.

    I've been down on Holgersen the past 2 years, but I commend him for having the team ready on Saturday. That did NOT look like the first game of the season. That offense was executing very well. If we can rack up some victories, get some momentum going... I think good things will happen.

    And Clint Trickett... holy smokes! What a night and day difference! He looks incredible!

    • J the C

      +1

  • william

    WVU losses, and fans say it was a Great game.
    Wow, WVU fans now think losing is OK.
    How sad is that?
    WVU fans are very weak fans!
    and yes,
    I'M LOVIN' IT

    • Diaspora

      Don't worry William, The Herd will lose 1 or 2 critical conference games. They always do.

    • I'm honest at least

      Its off to the dollar store to buy sunscreen then back to the closet to eat it for you William.....

    • uncle phil

      "william",

      The only weak fans are the ones that actually get upset by anything you write. How anyone can fall for your act is beyond me.

      But hold on a second... the more I think about it - maybe you're on to something. If people are stupid enough to actually take you seriously, I guess they deserve what they get.

      Therefore, I stand corrected. Keep the routine going.

      • rick

        uncle phil............it is a routine. you are correct in saying that. william just eats it up when people respond to his ignorant routine. it's getting old. holgersen called a great game. tonkery and joseph played a great game. trickett is 100 percent better. wide receivers need to stop dropping balls that are put on the numbers. running backs will be okay but shell needs to be the main carrier. both lines need to improve and do it fast. punting is excellent. lambert could help himself by making a 45 to 50 yarder a little more than he does. but overall he is fine. 8 and 4 record is what i see for the year.

  • Aaron

    The defense has major concerns. If a mobile QB like Blake Sims can go 24-33 (75%) for 250 yards, what will Big 12 caliber QB's do to this defense?

    • Ole Sasquatch

      Good point. I've come to face with our defense not improving much. If our offensive line could run block this yr. with those good running backs the defense don't have to be on the field all the time - that's the only way I see our season being spared.
      At this point I do not believe Coach Crook can do the job but I will keep my fingers crossed.

      • Aaron

        I thought the line graded pretty well Saturday. Two things contributed to the lack of yards, neither of which was poor run blocking. First the Alabama defense is as strong as any team and I seriously doubt any team will cross the century mark against Alabama. Also, I doubt many will average more than the 3 yards against this team on design runs.

        Second, the only back with significant carries was Shell and he averaged 3.8 yards per carry which is hardly shabby. Smallwood only had 5 rushes for 9 yards but he did have 6 catches for 73 yards.

        For the game, backs only carried the ball 24 times with only 7 rushes coming after half time. Given there are only so many touches in a game and Trickett threw 45 times, you're not going to see big rushing numbers, particularly when the other team holds the time of possession advantage that Alabama did. It's hard to spring "big gainers" under those circumstances.

        Given that Trickett did throw the ball 45 times, was only sacked 3 times, and had ample opportunity to throw the ball, I would grade the lines performance pretty high, perhaps a B. There is still room for improvement but to think this group didn't perform well is simply inaccurate. Taylor's observation are off on this group. They should have trended up given the concern in preseason.

        • Aaron

          WVU ran the ball 7 times in the 2nd half. There's no way to judge the team on 7 plays.

          None.

          • Aaron

            I take that back. They technically gave shell -1 yards on a carry her he was just short of the last scrimmage.

          • Aaron

            There were no negative running plays in the 2nd half.

          • Ole Sasquatch

            Negative yardage on those plays Aaron. I may be going out on a limb but I think that is sufficient for a judgement.

        • Ole Sasquatch

          I disagree on the run blocking. We have 5 or 6 big supposedly well trained linemen up there against less people on the line across from them. In practice you have running plays almost guaranteed to work for a yard or 2 in a given situation. That situation we always try to perform when we get down in the red zone or have a third and one. Our success rate is dismal and we put up with it the last 2 yrs. I know out last head coach worked that out to about a 60 % success rate with about 3 great big backs. It is not asking too much too solve this repeating problem under the current staff. We have to increase our time of possession with our weak defense and our good running backs it's positively crucial to our season that our offensive line perform run blocking at a level near average and they positively did not do that in the second half Saturday even if it was against Alabama.

    • Steve

      a benefit that we have in the big 12 is that we don't have to worry as much about the run. Alabama is loaded at running back and DBS have to worry about that a lot. we will struggle some but to be with in 10 of number 2 has to be a positive. give them a chance to work through these problems.

  • sportsfan

    the only team that beat west virginia, was west virginia. trickett played great and there were at least 4 passes that hit his receivers right in the numbers that they dropped. those guys catch those passes in the critical situations that they were and this is a completely different game and and we probably leave ATL with a win. Lets just hope they keep the intensity up and play like this the rest of the season and we will be talking in a few months about them finishing in the top of the big 12. LETS GO MOUNTAINEERS!!!!!!!!!!

  • Tomgone12

    Allan - pretty accurate analysis. In the end this loss does hurt. Anybody who watched this game should come to the conculsion that because if they had executed they would have won.

    I think there is something in that lack of execution across the board, something to the the missed TD opportunity on the first trip inside the 5, something to the many times the D should have sacked Sims on the blitz but wiffed, something to Tricket's underthrown pass from the 5 yard line to the wide open fullback swinging out of the backfield, soemthing to Orlosky's baloon snap later that series, something to the 6 missed tackles on the 38 yard run late in the half that allowed them to score, something to letting Sims outside contain prior for a 13 yard gaiin that led to the field goal before the half, or the six critical dropped passes that killed drives or resulted in FG's vs. field goals, or the 6 missed tackles en route to the 38 yard pick up when they had Bama stopped, etc. etc etc. And, it isn't as if the kids arent talented athletes, they pretty much are, and physucally gifted to play at a high level. No, there has to be something that causes so many simple and seemingly stupid mistakes. That something is what separates this team from being really good. Confidennce, coaching? Yes, i believe it is coaching that gets these kids beyond the physical to the confidence and mental frame of mind to execute at an even higher level. I have been slow to crticize and have been patient with DH with his lack of scholarships, his recruits, new to the B12, etc. But when I think about other programs , KState comes to mind, where the talent level is probably about the same as WVU but I think Bill Snyder and his staff get more discipline and a higher level of execution. They say thatbthe biggest areabof improvement is betweennthe 1st and 2nd games. If the lack of execution persists you, I personally would not be neutral in grading of the coaching staff. This year we should hold them to a much higher standard.

    • Ole Sasquatch

      I like all the coaches but they get paid very well and I can't stand seeing the same mistakes over and over. You are so correct this is the year to hold them to a higher standard and I have been putting on the pressure because I think we should be enjoying more success and falling off at the end of the seasons is totally unacceptable to me and several other fans.

      • GoEers

        This coming from the same Ole Sasquatch who said WVU would get obliterated by Alabama. You are a miserable human being.

        • Ole Sasquatch

          You must have me mixed up with someone else my repeated prediction was WVU 38 Alabama 35
          I am a proud Sasquatch elated one - not a human being.