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

  • any major dude

    A couple of things I found on the UA site
    •Alabama is now 14-17-2 against teams now in the Big 12.
    •Nine freshmen saw action in the first half.

  • Joel

    "maybe the deepest stable of RB's ever" rushed for 58 yards.

    Who must answer for that?

  • Tommy Johnson

    I love the Mountaineers so much that I did not go to a friend's wedding so I can see the entire game. I hope she is not mad at me. The team looks so much better than last years squad. We have a lot to be optimistic about.

  • Counter Trey

    Some of these QBs on the remainder of our schedule are not going to be nearly as mobile as Sims was, a running back in a former life. Hoping we can get a few more sacks that way and a little more under control on the rush, not overpersue.

  • Tee

    It's easy to blame the refs. Lord knows I was mad at them too but you simply cannot do that. I'm blaming the stuff WE CAN CONTROLL! Example: Arm tackling, we had wide open shots to get a couple of sacks but just couldn't finish the job, and the elephant in the room, CATCHING THE BALL. Nothing kills a drive faster than dropping a pass right through your hands. As I type this I do realize the insane amount of pressure on these young guys. A huge stage against one of the best college football programs, but you still have to catch the ball. No need to cry over spilled milk though, proud of these guys for coming out strong and punching a heavily favored opponet in the mouth, and giving Bama all they could handle! If we can build on this momentum and tweak some of the small stuff, watch out Big 12, WVU is hungry and coming for ya!!

  • Richard

    As Coach Nehlen had said, "Clint Trickett has really improved". I agree, in regards to at least two terrible calls that went against WVU. The Bama game gives us a lot to build on. We must "catch the ball". In truth, we are going to have to "outscore" a number of teams this season.

    Allan -- your post game report was excellent...

  • any major dude

    @Robin

    They most certainly did not run the ball on 1st down every time in the second half. Not even close.

  • Ridgerunner

    I don't agree with the down mark on the RB's. The O Line and Coaching staff shared some of that. In the second half the line didn't create lanes and the coaches abandoned the run somewhat due to Bama's front tightening up. The few times they did run in the second half wasn't necessarily the smart/aggressive play.

  • Robin

    I refused to give the coaching a plus. When you come out in the second half and on every first down you run the ball you have a problem. Especially when you gain maybe one or two yards and a few times lost yards.

    • Aaron

      WVU ran the ball 7 times in the second half, twice on the first down.

      Why the misrepresentation
      Robin?

  • any major dude

    I picked Bama to win-I'm not eating crow
    We covered the spread against our foe yes we lost but I'm happy with my pickin'
    Like they say-I'll just eat more chicken!

  • JAB

    I was very proud of our mountaineers! I thought they did a good job.

    • Joel

      ok, you can stand in the unemployment with Holgersen at the end of the season.

      'doing good' doesn't cut it after two disappointing seasons in the B12.

  • ray

    Thanks for the loss refs! You can't win if the refs are clearly again your team. I saw the same thing in the 0SU Florida State game. It is what it is. Popularity means a lot in football. If you don't believe me watch the game again. Listen to the accent of the ref and watch all of the bad calls and no calls. It's pathetic. Money roll tide.

  • TD

    The rose colored glasses must be sold out from the views of these comments. Let's get real for a minute folks:
    1- could not catch or contain a qb that looked and moved like a lineman.
    2- could not stop 1st start qb from having a great 1st game, 250 yds and 73% completion rate.
    3- let two different rb's run all over of us.
    4- offense could not score, even though coaching set them up to do so over and over, players just could not execute.
    5- all you Deforest haters need to rethink, his positions accounted for 16 of the 23 points, without his guidance then ESP&N and the odds maker's would have been right it would have been 33-7.

    • J the C

      You are very sad, and no fan. We played the number 2 team in the country very close. No fumbles, no picks, 55 yards of non-existent penalties. We threw for 365 yards against 'Bama. Very few teams do that., Most important, when we were down in the 4th quarter, the guys refused to give up. I kept waiting for the tide to steamroll us, and it never happened.

      • TD

        All my points were truth, how does that make me sad and not a fan? I would have liked to see a win but it didn't happen. I think there is a lot of work to do before we start coming up against the gun slingers of the Big 12 or we will be in for trouble. FYI I am a fan, I just have enough sense to see the game for how it was.

        • hailey

          You are a sad fan if that is what you took away from the game

          *3) They are 2 of the very best RB;s in the county who had 5 * linemen paving the way

          *4)They scored, what do you mean they could not score, so you think without Defo the team could not kick a field goal?

          *5)Can Deforest please coach Thompson not to field the ball inside the 10 yr line.


          This teamis not going to win the b12, but they certainly look like they can compete week end and week out.

  • Mountandbeers

    Cyrus did not poke the ball out in the endzone. He didn't even play the ball. His head never turned back to make the play and he hung all over White's left arm.

  • Hop'sHip

    Allan: How about your alma mater? Do you see them reaching the Iron Bowl unblemished? Beating Ole Miss and LSU on the road?