ATLANTA — Blake Sims was good enough in his first start at quarterback for Alabama, getting plenty of help from Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, and the second-ranked Crimson Tide held off West Virginia 33-23 Saturday.
Sims was 24-for-33 for 250 yards and added 42 running, playing almost the entire opener at the Georgia Dome. The fifth-year senior beat out Florida State transfer Jake Coker for the start. Tide coach Nick Saban had suggested both quarterbacks would play; Coker, who was Jameis Winston's backup last season, only came in to take a knee at the end.
Saban said he suggested going to a no-huddle offense to new coordinator Lane Kiffin, and the tempo helped settle Sims.
"But all in all for him to throw for 250 yards, he did a pretty good job of executing all in all, and I'm happy with his progress," Saban said. "We're looking forward to how we can help him improve as well as Jake, too."
So the quarterback competition might not be closed.
"I'll leave that to Coach Saban," Sims said.
Yeldon (126 yards rushing and two touchdowns), Henry (113 yards rushing and a score) and Cooper (12 catches for 130 yards) provided plenty of support. Alabama needed all the offense it could get because West Virginia found plenty of soft spots in the Tide's defense.
The Mountaineers' up-tempo spread gave Clint Trickett, who transferred from FSU during the offseason, his pick of open receivers, and he took advantage with 365 yards passing.
But West Virginia didn't take full advantage, dropping more than a half-dozen catchable pass, including one off the hands of Elijah Wellman near the goal line early in the fourth quarter.
"Yeah, it's frustrating," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said of the final result. "You play against a really good team and you're in position in the fourth quarter to be able to win the game. I mean you don't have those opportunities very often."
Coming off a 4-8 season, West Virginia was a 26-point underdog. The Mountaineers seemed like nothing more than the backdrop to Alabama's continued quarterback competition. They didn't play that way. Mario Alford returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score with 1:43 left in the first half to tie it at 17.
"We really had the confidence that we were going to compete," Trickett said.
Henry scored the only touchdown of the second half on a 19-yard run midway through the third to put Alabama up 27-17. It was all field goals from there.
no. 6 auburn 45, arkansas 21: Jeremy Johnson passed for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and Nick Marshall returned from suspension with a 19-yard scoring run to lift the host Tigers. Auburn scored the final 24 points after the Razorbacks forced a halftime tie. The game was delayed 1 hour, 28 minutes due to lightning during the fourth quarter. Marshall started the second half after serving his punishment for getting ticketed in July for possession of marijuana. Junior college transfer D'haquille Williams shad nine catches for 154 yards in his debut, Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for a career-high 177 yards and Jermaine Whitehead returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown for the Tigers.
no. 24 missouri 38, S. Dakota ST. 18: Maty Mauk threw for 178 yards and three touchdowns as the host Tigers defeated the Division I-AA Jackrabbits. Mauk seemed at ease early, finding receiver Darius White crossing behind the defense for a 44-yard touchdown 50 seconds into the game. "I thought we did pretty well," Mauk said. "We came out fast and that showed. We just had a lot of inconsistency we have to clean up and that is stuff we can fix." South Dakota State fell to 0-7 against I-A teams. Missouri running back Russell Hansbrough, who started after backing up Henry Josey last year, had a career-high 126 yards on 20 carries.
mississippi state 49, southern miss 0: Dak Prescott threw for a career-high 284 yards and four touchdowns, including two to De'Runnya Wilson, and the host Bulldogs dominated from the outset, needing nine plays on the opening drive to cruise 87 yards downfield. Prescott ended the drive by finding Wilson for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Mississippi State scored three touchdowns in the second quarter and gained 387 yards in the first half for a 28-0 lead. Southern Miss struggled in every facet.
kentucky 59, UT Martin 14: Braylon Heard scored on first-half touchdown runs of 73 and 43 yards and the host Wildcats totaled 656 yards, their fourth-highest total. Sophomore quarterback Patrick Towles threw for 370 yards and had a touchdown passing and running in his first career start. The final four minutes were muted after Kentucky cheerleader Brooke Gibbs was injured in a fall. She was treated and released at a hospital.