“I thought we made plays when we needed to make them,” Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban said. “There’s a lot of things we can improve on. I was pleased with the way we controlled the ball on offense (37:47 to 22:13 advantage in time of possession).”
Many questions after the contest focused on first-time starting quarterback Blake Sims (24-33 passing for 250 yards with one interception and 42 yards rushing).
“I thought Blake Sims really settled down in the second half and was able to play better.,” Saban said. “In the second quarter, Blake got a little rattled. I told Jake [Coker] to loosen up, that we might have to put him in the game. Then I said to Lane [Kiffin], ‘Let’s go no-huddle,’ and Blake got back in sync. I’m happy with his performance.”
On Kiffin, Saban had some terse words about his coordinator’s critics.
“Lane did a great job today,” Saban said. “He helped Blake with some of his checks and managing the game. You guys [in the media] need to fess up: the guy’s a really good coach. Most places that don’t like him are mad because he left, not because of anything he did while he was there. Do a little research on that.”
Saban added that he felt that having Kiffin on the sidelines was very beneficial to Sims. “And that’s why we did it,” he said.
Asked to expound about Sims’ success with the no-huddle, Saban said, “We could do it as much as we want. We’ll do what benefits our players the most.
“Now, we run a regular offense. We’re like the ‘Dinosaur Age’ when it comes to offense. But, I’ve found out that, because everybody else is running spread and no-huddle, it makes it more difficult to defend us.”
Blake Sims said this about his debut as the team’s starting quarterback.
“Saban told me to play with composure. I told him when it comes time, I’ll be ready. I didn’t think about [starting Saturday for the first time] too much. I just went out there and played. Through spring and summer, I was focused on getting the team ready. I knew I would be ready to go if I got the call. I found out Friday I was starting.
“I think I did OK. I can always get better, in all situations. We can all get better. We feel very confident with what we did [in rolling up 538 yards of offense and 33 points.]”
Another man doing his job full-time for the first time was sophomore kicker Adam Griffith, who nailed four field goals and all three extra points. Griffith connected on field goals from 47, 41, 27 and 45 yards.
“We’ve always had a lot of confidence in ‘Grif,’” said Saban. “There were times last year when we thought about making him the kicker. When we had him as a [high school] sophomore at our camp, he was as good a kicker as we’d seen. We’re excited about his future.”
Saban had mixed feelings about a defense that gave up only 28 yards on the ground but 365 through the air to the Mountaineers.
“We didn’t play the gap fits on the run a few times,” Saban said. “The two big stops we made inside the 10-yard line were big for us. We made a lot of mental errors, but we had two new starters at linebacker [Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster].
“When you have leadership on defense and everybody concentrates on the call they’re making, and then you go against no-huddle… But, these are all things we’ve executed against before.
“There were some plays out there today where I thought we could have done better [like the WVU kick return for a touchdown]. We had a missed tackle on that return, and that’s something we’ve got to clean up.”
Junior safety Landon Collins agreed.
“We just have to get familiar with the game plan,” he said. “And we just missed on some of our personal packages, but we got the win, so that is all that matters. We had a game plan coming in, and it didn’t quite work, but in the second half we settled down.
“It’s all mental. We knew we needed to make the [second half red zone] stops, and get off the field. We have to do a better job of picking the offense up, and we have to have each other’s back, offense and defense. Toward the end of the game, we did a better job of that”
While it was not the most beautiful win of the Saban era, the Tide’s eighth-year boss likes the way things are moving forward.
“I like our team’s attitude,” Saban said. “I like the way they work. At quarterback, and some other positions [like linebacker and cornerback], we don’t have the experience. You [in the media] ignored that. I couldn’t. I really thought West Virginia had a better team than everybody thought. [The media] created the perception that this was going to be a lopsided game. I thought this was going be like the Virginia Tech game here [in Atlanta in 2009, when Bama won 34-24].”
Saban said senior receiver DeAndrew White left the game with a shoulder problem and should be out about a week.
Bama had two backs over 100 yards against West Virginia, as T.J. Yeldon went for 126 and 2 touchdowns and Derrick Henry chipped in 113 yards and one touchdown. Amari Cooper led all receivers with 130 yards on 12 grabs. Collins had 8 tackles to lead the defense.

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