Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Alabama 33, West Virginia 23 Mountaineers Put Up a Fight but No. 2 Tide Turns Them Back despite QB Trickett's Big Day

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Alabama 33, West Virginia 23 Mountaineers Put Up a Fight but No. 2 Tide Turns Them Back despite QB Trickett's Big Day

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Maybe it shouldn't have been such a surprise.

West Virginia couldn't quite play catch-up long enough against No. 2 Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, but the Mountaineers sure gave the 70,502 at Georgia Dome a heck of a thrill.

West Virginia, pegged as 26-point underdogs, answered the Crimson Tide again and again Saturday. The Mountaineers trailed by three points at halftime and stayed within striking distance until Alabama finally escaped with a 33-23 victory.

Clint Trickett completed 29 of 45 passes for 365 yards. He found receiver Kevin White nine times for a career-high 143 receiving yards and a picture-perfect diving catch in the back of the end zone for the Mountaineers' first touchdown.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen has said many times that this team is "night-and-day" better than the one that ended last season with embarrassing losses against Kansas and Iowa State. As a result, he wasn't surprised the Mountaineers took Alabama to the wire.

"I told these guys to hold their heads up high," Holgorsen said after emerging from the locker room. "We're not interested in moral victories. We played hard and we put ourselves in position to win."

Yes, there were those fouled opportunities in what Holgorsen called "critical situations." Josh Lambert missed a field goal. Receivers failed to make more than a handful of easy catches. And Trickett missed a wide-open Elijah Wellman at the goal line in the fourth quarter, right before the offense spoiled a chance to tie the score by going three-and-out at midfield after Daryl Worley's interception.

But there was brilliance, too, on a stage that demanded it. None better than Mario Alford's 100-yard kickoff return to tie the score, 17-17, late in the second quarter. Alford evaded a tackler, angled to the right and rode the sideline slipstream to the end zone.

"Mario, the fastest kid on the planet, just outran the fastest team in the country by himself," Trickett said.

Alford's heroics shouldn't have been a surprise, either; he did the same thing in West Virginia's spring game.

"Once I was past everyone, it was the home stretch for me," Alford said. …

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