Notes From Opening Game In Georgia Dome

Alabama’s third straight game against a hurry-up offense was the charm, so to speak. After losing the final two games of the 2013 season, the second-ranked Crimson Tide took a 33-23 win over West Virginia in Atlanta in the Kickoff Game in the Georgia Dome Saturday night.

Alabama had closed out last season with a regular season loss at Auburn and a loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl to finish 11-2. It was not because the Tide stopped the West Virginia offense, though. The Mountaineers 29 of 45 passes for 365 yards and had a handful of dropped passes.

Bama has been ranked second in the nation in pre-season polls this year and begins the season 1-0.

Here are notes from the Crimson Tide’s win over West Virginia:

The game was the first between Bama and the Mountaineers. Alabama Coach Nick Saban is a native of West Virginia and served as an assistant coach at WVU in 1978-79.

Alabama improves to 14-17-2 in games against teams from the current Big 12 Conference.

Alabama is now 75-47-4 in neutral site games. The list includes all Alabama-Auburn games not played on campus, including Legion Field from 1948-88. The Crimson Tide played two neutral site contests last season, opening the year with a 35-10 win over Virginia Tech in the Georgia Dame. In the postseason, Alabama fell to Oklahoma 45-31 at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans Superdome. The Crimson Tide improves to 12-4 in neutral site games during Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama is 16-6-1 in domed stadiums, including a 7-1 mark since 2009 and 8-3 in Saban’s tenure.

Saturday’s game was Bama’s fourth to open the season in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Previously Alabama defeated Clemson, 34-10, in 2008; Virginia Tech, 34-24, in 2009; and Virginia Tech 35-10 in 2013.

The Georgia Dome will be demolished at the end of this season as a new stadium is being constructed next to the current site.

Attendance was 70,502, predominantly Alabama, fifth largest in the history of the Kickoff game.

Next year Alabama opens the season against Wisconsin at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Tide returns to Arlington to open the 2016 season against USC.

Alabama dressed 89 players from the game. The only scholarshipped player not dressed was linebacker Trey DePriest, who had been suspended for the game because of what was described as a minor NCAA infraction.

There was a little stir in the pre-game when new Alabama quarterback Jake Coker did not go out with the other four quarterbacks for early warm-ups. A few minutes later, though, Coker joined Blake Sims, Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, and David Cornwell. Coker’s left leg was heavily taped and he played only mop-up duty.

Speaking of quarterbacks, former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron was on the sidelines. He is on the injured and unable to participate list for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Six current NFL and former Crimson Tide players were in attendance. In addition to McCarron, the Alabama sidelines included Mark Barron, Barrett Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Andre Smith, and Javier Arenas, who was Bama’s honorary captain and delivered the Tide’s game ball.

Captains for Alabama were offensive tackle Austin Shepherd, safety Landon Collins, and wide receiver/kick returner Christion Jones.

In last year’s win over Virginia Tech, Christion Jones scored three touchdowns – one on a kickoff return, one on a punt return, and one on a pass reception. Against West Virginia he had one punt return for minus one yard, four kickoff returns for 99 yards, the longest 26. He caught three passes for 31 yards, but had a couple of drops, including one inside the 10-yard line on about a 55-yard throw from Sims.

Alabama quarterback Blake Sims had a record-breaking debut vs. West Virginia. Sims, who finished the game by connecting on 24-of-33 passed for 250 yards, secured the school record for most completions and attempts of any quarterback in a debut game at Alabama. The former completions record was held by John david phillips, who connected on 17 passes in his debut vs. BYU in 1998. The former attempts record was 30, held by three different Tide quarterbacks. In addition, Sims’ 250 yards passing ranks third among Alabama quarterbacks in their debut. The record of 285 passing yards is held by Brody Croyle vs. Arkansas in 2002, followed by John Parker Wilson’s 253 yards passing in 2006 vs. Hawaii.

Bama running backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry each rushed for over 100 yards against West Virginia. Yeldon finished the game with 23 rushes for 126 yards, while Henry added 113 yards rushing on 17 attempts. The last time Alabama had a pair of running backs rush for more than 100 yards came when Henry (111) and Kenyan Drake (104) accomplished the feat vs. Arkansas on Oct. 19, 2013. It was the first time Henry and Yeldon had rushed for 100 yards or more each in a game.

Alabama is 61-1 since the start of the 2008 season when rushing for at least 140 yards. The only loss was at Auburn in 2013 when the Tide went for 218 yards, but saw the Tigers gain 296 and score on the game’s final play.

With sophomore kicker Adam Griffith’s 47-yard field goal in the first quarter, Alabama has scored in 170 consecutive games – the longest streak in program history. Griffith finished the night hitting all four of his field goal attempts, including three from 40-plus yards. Griffith connected on kicks from 47, 41, 27 and 45 yards.

Junior safety Landon Collins led the Crimson Tide defense with a team-best eight tackles in the game. This is the fourth-straight game he has logged eight or more tackles with eight against Chattanooga, nine at Auburn, and nine versus Oklahoma.

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