The Alabama Crimson Tide beat West Virginia in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game by a final of 33-23, in a game that was far closer than Alabama fans wanted.
Alabama looked as solid as most expected, given the quarterback situation, and was excellent in the kicking game. The Tide defense, however, was abysmal, and West Virginia’s passing game gashed the Tide for 365 yards.
Senior quarterback Blake Sims started the game and played the entire way, save the final minute of the game, in which Jacob Coker came in to help run out the clock. Sims went 24 of 33 for 250 yards with no passing touchdowns and one interception.
Amari Cooper was clearly Sims’ favorite target, snagging 12 passes for 130 yards, one shy of the Alabama single-game record. DeAndrew White had six catches for 73 yards, but left the game and the field with an injured shoulder, returning later with his arm in a sling.
Alabama ran the ball well, with T.J. Yeldon carrying for 126 yards and two touchdowns, including a dive into the end zone that recalled his Superman leap against Missouri as a freshman.
Derrick Henry also broke the 100-yard mark with 17 carries for 113 yards and a score.
For once, Alabama’s kicking game was not an issue, with J.K. Scott booming a 58-yard punt, pinning WVU back at their own six. Adam Griffith was 4 of 4 in field goal attempts, including one from 47 yards out.
It was a different story on defense, where West Virginia’s hurry-up style of play had the Tide defense looking confused and out of position most of the game. Defensive back Bradley Sylve in particular was burned repeatedly by WVU receivers.
“We’re soft,” Saban said of his defense at halftime. “We did a lot of things we need to do a lot of improving on,” he added at the end of the game.
In the end, the Coker vs. Sims duel that had fans and media speculating was of no consequence in this game. Instead it was the concerns over defense that had Alabama looking less like the No. 2 team in the country, and more like a team struggling to find its identity.
Alabama gets more time to find itself as they host Florida Atlantic next week in Tuscaloosa.