MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — While a loss to No. 2 Alabama wasn’t the result Dana Holgorsen wanted, he predicted his West Virginia team will “win a bunch of games” if it plays with the same enthusiasm throughout the season.
“Our excitement level to play the game was off the charts,” Holgorsen said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. “Our energy throughout the game was at an all-time high. The effort that our guys played with was exactly what we want.”
The Mountaineers (0-1) dropped their fourth consecutive game, but playing Alabama even left Holgorsen with a far different aftertaste than did closing the 2013 season with losses to Kansas and Iowa State. Pitched as 26-point underdogs, West Virginia had possession and a chance to tie Alabama in the fourth quarter.
“I told the team that they set the standard, they set the bar for how we need to play all year,” he said. “If we can get the guys to play with that kind of effort, with that kind of energy and that kind of excitement, then we’re going to have a good year.
“If we can play like that all year, then we’ll win a bunch of games.”
Holgorsen’s list of positives were lengthy: Clint Trickett throwing for a career-high 365 yards, Kevin White being hard to guard on the outside, Mario Alford producing a special-teams score and West Virginia’s defense creating the game’s only turnover.
For those reasons, he dismissed any good-loss symmetry between the Alabama game and last September’s 16-7 loss at Oklahoma.
“Last year against (Oklahoma) was a sloppy game, but I don’t think this game on Saturday night was a sloppy game,” he said.
Holgorsen’s other talking points Tuesday:
• “The difference against the Crimson Tide was third downs.” Alabama finished 9-of-16, while West Virginia was 5-of-14.
• Alabama’s rushing game compiled 288 yards and 5.9 per carry, wearing down WVU’s defense. “They do that to everybody,” he said.
• West Virginia allow 538 yards and yielded more than 37 minutes of possession, but Holgorsen liked the defensive design of new defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “I thought coach Gibson called a good game, I really do.”
• Alabama junior receiver Amari Cooper made quite an impression with 12 catches for 130 yards: “He might be the first pick in the draft. He was a really good player.”
• Holgorsen thanked the contingent of WVU fans who “made a big difference” in Atlanta. “I thought our fan support was great and our players were pretty fired up to see the amount of people who made the trip.”
• On this week’s opponent for the home opener, 2013 FCS runner-up Towson: “They went on a pretty good run and won some huge games in the playoffs. … They’re used to winning and they’re pretty good.”