MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Amid suggestions West Virginia under-utilized its running game in a 33-23 loss to Alabama, quarterback Clint Trickett estimated he changed 10 to 15 plays to passes based on the defensive alignment.
“That’s football—you go where they’re not and do what they’re not,” he said Tuesday.
Afforded more play-checking flexibility than last season when he didn’t fully understand the offense, Trickett’s 365 passing yards were a career-high. On the flip side, the Mountaineers netted only 28 rushing.
Trickett said some calls were outright running plays switched to passes, while at other times he went to the line with an either/or option. The resulting breakdown was 48 designed pass plays—counting the three sacks—and only 21 runs.
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said after the game the offense needed to feed its running backs more. By Tuesday, with two days of film-study providing clarity, he said Trickett made the proper decision on all but three or four plays.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen didn’t find the run/pass ratio too one-dimensional.
“We pulled it and threw some screen passes, which technically is a run play. A couple of those plays downfield were (initially) run plays—we just pulled it and threw it down that way,” he said. “We could have probably called a few more run plays, but I was happy with what it was. It opened up some of the pass-game numbers.”
In the second half, West Virginia ran 29 designed pass plays to only seven runs. Those seven carries netted 5 yards.
“Who ever got into them at halftime, the linebackers filled a little different,” Dawson said. “Coming out of halftime they were going to take away the run. … Would you rather me hand the ball off 30 times into a bad box? No? Well, that’s not what we did. If they put more people in the box, we’re probably going to throw it 90 percent of the time.
“A lot of the time, the defense dictates how much you run or how well you run. (Alabama’s) defensive philosophy is they do not want you to run the ball on them. Period. We could have sat there and tried to, if that would’ve made everybody happy, but I’d rather try to win the damn game.”
It also might have boiled down to being overmatched by the Tide’s defensive front. During the past three seasons, Alabama ranked No. 1, No. 1 and No. 7 nationally in rush defense.
“They’re just hard to run against,” Holgorsen said. “It’s hard to line up and average 5, 6 yards a play against those guys. They’re big. They’ve got great depth—they played 12 defensive linemen—and they get off blocks.”
Did White get Bama CB benched? After Kevin White made seven catches for 115 yards against cornerback Brandon Sylve, the Crimson Tide swapped Cyrus Jones to shadow White for the final four series (resulting in two catches for another 28 yards).
At Tuesday’s practice in Tuscaloosa, Sylve was working with the second-team, demoted in favor of sophomore Eddie Jackson, who missed the WVU game while recovering from knee surgery.
White goes wild: White’s career-best performance also led Alabama to shade more safety help to his side.
“He draws a lot of attention, just by his body type, but when you make those (big) plays you’re going to get that extra attention,” Trickett said. “He’s going to be double-teamed a lot this year, and he’s still going to be able to make those plays.
“He’s a heck of a player. You can put it in places where maybe you can’t with other guys and he still comes down with it. That’s why you recruit those big guys like that.”