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The look on Dana Holgorsen’s face was like that of a guy suspecting his wife of cheating on him and then walking in on her after coming home from work early with a dozen roses and a bottle of Merlot.
Time expired, and West Virginia lost to Alabama by 10.
There are no moral victories in sports. Outwardly, you feel no better losing in a valiant effort than you do losing in a less-valiant one. Inwardly, if you gave it all you had in your heart, yeah, you’re disappointed you didn’t have enough in you to get to where you wanted to be. It’s not so much sadness as being resolute.
For the WVU Mountaineers, there is 0-1, but there should be no shame in the effort on Saturday in Atlanta.
Many people had written off this WVU program under Holgorsen after a miserable showing in the Big 12 last season, not to mention the subsequent turmoil-laden offseason that portended a rough start to the season today.
But give those Mountaineers credit. Short of 1,743 dropped passes, they might have won.
Holgorsen’s team was incredibly well-prepared, mixing a surprisingly bulldozing running game at times with quick, short passes out of the no-huddle that had to make Nick Saban’s brain feel like he’d just done power hour with a grip of Skol.
Receiver Kevin White was a revelation, doing Calvin Johnson things at times, giving WVU hope that on pure talent alone, it has someone that’s going to be better than the guy across from him every weekend … and in college football, that means a lot.
Give Alabama credit of its own. Blake Sims made throws when he had to, and the offensive line punished a tired WVU defense when it simply needed to get out of Dodge. Oh, and the kicking game … it’s better. (Insert 4,000th shot of Lane Kiffin, ABC).
The takeaway is that Alabama is a heck of a football team with some work to be done in the secondary — work that should be able to show itself by the time the season ends. Sims needs to be better at hitting the open man, several times missing open receivers on key downs or simply not looking in the direction of the open man on others.
That said, he got better as the game went on, buoyed by an elite running game that figures to forever be elite as long as Saban’s feet hit the ground out of bed every morning.
WVU should be disappointed though, and that’s a good thing. The Mountaineers weren’t supposed to compete, be close, be on the same field as the Crimson Tide, according to many. They hit them toe to toe and expected to win.
You can see it sometimes in teams, coaches, and players: “Aw, hell, we gave it a decent run,” or “Well, they have a bit more than us and we knew it coming in.”
No such reaction from WVU. The Mountaineers expected to win. They knew how they were going to do it… and narrowly didn’t get it done. With that type of mindset, they will win plenty of times from here on out.