ATLANTA — After WVU’s effort against No. 2 Alabama, Mountaineer players and coaches were anything but happy.
Yet they weren’t totally displeased either.
“I thought we played really well tonight, but not good enough to win,” Clint Trickett, WVU’s quarterback, said after the 33-23 loss at the Georgia Dome. “That’s the bottom line. A lot of people were probably surprised by how well we played, but we weren’t. We had a lot of confidence heading into this game. We did a good job responding to adversity, but didn’t capitalize when we had opportunities.”
Trickett finished 29 of 45 passing with no interceptions and one touchdown.
“It’s the first game of the season,” he said. “We looked good on offense. There’s always question marks, but we believed we could win. It gives us confidence to know we can win games like this. We know we can drive on anyone.”
“Our guys are confident,” said WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “We know we can move the ball. We’re only going to grow from here.”
Dawson did, however, acknowledge WVU’s dropped passes and a need for improvement in the run game after adjustments. (“We probably should have stuck with it a little more,” he said of the latter.)
Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson pointed to problems stopping Alabama on third-down situations.
“We have to tackle better and get on them when we blitz,” Gibson said. “[Alabama quarterback Blake Sims] was more elusive than we expected. He hit us on a few quick screens.”
“We have to give credit to Alabama,” said WVU nose guard Kyle Rose. “They played a tough game. We had opportunities. Should we have won? In our eyes, yes.”
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WVU had to hope the pressure of starting his first college game would get to new Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims. In the end, though, Sims completed 24 of 33 passes for 250 yards with one interception.
“[Coach Nick Saban] told me to play with composure,” Sims said. “I told him when the time comes, I’ll be ready.”
Sims was helped by his team’s rushing attack. Back T.J. Yeldon led the way with 126 rushing yards.
“No one panicked,” Yeldon said. “We just went out there and played. It was definitely a team effort and we can definitely improve a lot.”
Tide linebacker Landon Collins saw a turning point.
“When we saw our linebackers were starting to make plays in the [WVU] backfield, we knew we had them,” he said.
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BRIEFLY: WVU associate athletic director Matt Wells said his school sold/distributed approximately 23,000 tickets to the game, including those for the band, players’ families, etc. He said approximately 25,000 Mountaineer fans attended. ... The historical average total team payout of the Kickoff game is $4.3 million, higher than over 20 bowls.
... Before Saturday’s game, the Kickoff games’ average attendance was 70,205. There were 70,502 in the stands. ... Alabama had been in the Kickoff game three other times: 2008 vs. Clemson; 2009 and 2013 vs. Virginia Tech. This was WVU’s first time participating. ... The officiating crew for Saturday’s game was from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.