Behind 538 total yards and more than 37 minutes of possession time, Alabama emerged with a 33-23 victory over West Virginia at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Crimson Tide running backs T.J. Yeldon had a game-high 126 yards rushing and two touchdowns while teammate Derrick Henry also went north of 100 yards, amassing 113 on 17 carries. “I’m proud of the way our team competed out there tonight,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I’m really pleased with the way we controlled the ball on offense, time of possession, good job on third down and a good balance between run and pass.”
In his first career start for Alabama, quarterback Blake Sims threw for 250 yards while Amari Cooper had a team-high 130 yards receiving on a game-high 12 receptions.
“I thought Blake Sims settled down in the second half, managed the game a little bit better and I was really pleased with the way he was able to perform well,” Saban said.
The Mountaineers had five first downs in their first possession of the game but were held to a 20-yard field goal by Josh Lambert, giving them an early 3-0 lead. Lambert converted three of four field goal attempts in the contest.
Alabama responded with a 47-yard field goal on its first possession by Adam Griffith, tying the score at 3-3 midway through first quarter. Griffith was successful on all four field goal attempts in the contest.
The Crimson Tide took its first lead of the game on a 14 plays, 95 yards drive that took 6:57 and ended on a 15-yard touchdown run by Yeldon.
West Virginia’s fast paced offense produced another score as Clint Trickett connected with Kevin White on a fade route at the right pylon towards the back of the endzone for 19-yard touchdown, tying the score at 10-10 early in the second quarter. Trickett had a game and career-high 365 yards passing on 29 completions.
White had a strong performance for West Virginia with a game and career-high 143 yards receiving on nine catches.
Yeldon’s second touchdown run of the game with 1:57 left in the first half gave Alabama the 17-10.
The Mountaineers tied the score once again with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Mario Alford after Alabama’s score.
The Crimson Tide ended the first half with a 41-yard field goal by Griffith, giving it a 20-17 lead into the locker room.
Alabama was able to sustain long drives in the first half, finishing with 284 total yards and going seven for nine on third-down conversions. The Crimson Tide also held the ball for 19:10 in time of possession. West Virginia’s quick-strike offense only held the ball for 10:50 but gained only 216 total yards.
West Virginia attempted to tie the game midway through the third quarter but missed a 46-yard field goal attempt.
The Crimson Tide’s response was swift as a 19-yard touchdown run by Henry increased the lead to 27-17. He had three rushes for 44 yards on the drive.
Lambert’s 42 yard field goal cut Alabama’s lead to 27-20 with 4:59 left in third quarter.
Alabama increased lead with 27-yard field goal by Griffith towards the end of the third quarter as the Crimson Tide led 30-20 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Mountaineers got within seven points early in the last quarter on a 41-yard field goal by Lambert. The final points of the game came on Griffith’s fourth field goal of the contest with 8:07 to go.
“I was proud of the way we fought,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We felt like we could come in and give them a good game and put ourselves in a position to have a chance to win, and when that happens, you’ve got to make critical plays in critical situations and have a little bit more success than we had tonight.”
- It was the first-ever meeting between West Virginia and Alabama
- Alford’s 100-yard kickoff return was the longest in Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game history
- Alabama’s three rushing touchdowns are the most in Kickoff Game history.
- Landon Collins led the Crimson Tide with eight tackles, which is the fourth straight game he has logged eight or more in a contest.
- Linebacker Xzavier Dickson’s two sacks tied a career-high.
- Sims’ connection of 24-of-33 passes set a school record for the most attempts and completions in a debut game at Alabama.
- Cooper’s 12 receptions are the second-most in a game in Alabama history. Tonight was also the third-straight game and eighth overall that he’s eliped the 100-yard receiving mark.
- Alabama has scored in 170 consecutive games-the longest streak in program history.