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Blake Sims Helps Lead Tide Over WVU In Debut Outing

Blake Sims
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

ATLANTA – Nearly five years ago, Blake Sims’ high school football career ended at the Georgia Dome.

It was the Georgia Class AAA state championship game, and Sims had just thrown a touchdown pass to cut the lead to one with no time remaining when his team decided to go for two and the win. The ball, again, was in Sims’ hands.

His pass was batted down and never made it to his intended receiver.

But on Saturday, on the same field where he played in the state championship game, his career, at least as a starter, was reborn.

Making his first start since his high school finale, Sims finished where he left off years earlier, leading the charge to put No. 2 Alabama past West Virginia in a 33-23 victory Saturday in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta.

“I didn’t think about it too much,” said Sims when asked about getting his first start. “I just went out there and played. Through spring and summer I was focused on getting the team ready. I know I would be ready to go if I got the call.”

Named as the starter only hours before kickoff, Sims, a fifth-year senior, was nearly error-free in a solid, but not spectacular performance, passing for 250 yards with a 73 percent completion rate along with one interception and rushing for 42 more. His completions (24) and attempts (33) were Alabama quarterback records for a starting debut.

For him, it was a long-time coming.

After redshirting his freshman year in 2010 as a player who really didn’t have a true position, he sat behind the likes of Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy at running back for a year before moving back to quarterback for the last two, where he waited behind AJ McCarron as his backup. And he still he waited patiently.

“He [Coach Saban] told me to play with composure,” Sims said. “I told him when it comes time, I’ll be ready.”

The Crimson Tide (1-0) did not win solely off the arm of Sims, but at the same time, he did nothing to potentially make them die by it either.

Despite highly-touted Florida State transfer Jake Coker waiting on the sidelines for an opportunity and a West Virginia team bidding for a colossal upset as late as the early fourth quarter, Sims played comfortably in the pocket for the majority of the game. His most noticeably error came early in the fourth quarter when an interception near midfield put the Mountaineers in good position to cut or tie the lead, trailing 30-23.

But as was the case on several occasions, a dropped pass at an inopportune time prevented the Mountaineers (0-1) from taking advantage, forcing them to punt on a three-and-out. West Virginia gained 393 total yards of offense but managed only one touchdown to go along with its three field goals.

“Not to take anything away from Alabama, but you need to make a few more plays, a few more calls than we made,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorson said. “It’s frustrating. We’re not interested in moral victories. We have to finish the job.”

Alabama pushed its lead to 33-23 on the following drive on Adam Griffith’s 45-yard field goal. Griffith was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals, including three from 40-plus yards.

Amari Cooper led all Alabama receivers with 12 catches and 130 yards as Sims’ favorite target. T.J. Yeldon, carrying the ball 23 times, rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns, while Derrick Henry, carrying the ball 17 times, rushed for 113 and one score. As a team, the Crimson Tide had 538 yards on offense.

The Mountaineers, with its hurry-up, no-huddle offense, scored first with a field goal on the opening drive of the game and matched nearly every Alabama score throughout the game, causing some familiar problems for a Crimson Tide defense known to struggle against that type of offense.

“I thought this game was going to go exactly like it went,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Not having a quarterback with any experience, who ever played before that is out there playing against a fast ball, no‑huddle group that had to call the defenses and get the defense lined up.

“… So I’m not surprised at all.”

West Virginia scored its second of two touchdowns in the game on Mario Alford’s 100-yard kickoff return in the second quarter to tie the game at 17-17.

Alabama hosts Florida Atlantic (0-1) in its home opener next Saturday.

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