April 16, 2011 11:16:00 PM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama''s football team may have been split into Crimson and White sides for the annual spring game, but it was the players in black who received the most attention Saturday.
In addition to the two quarterbacks competing for the starting job, which will continue into the summer and fall, safety Mark Barron had two fumble recoveries including one for 96 yards for a touchdown even though he couldn''t hit anyone while recovering from a torn pectoral muscle. All three wore black, non-contact jerseys.
Nevertheless, the Crimson team, which had the first-team offense, pulled out a 14-10 A-Day game victory in front of 92,310 fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium as Alabama concluded spring practice.
"We were really pleased with the overall progress that we made this spring," coach Nick Saban said. "This team has a little more maturity, maybe not the star players of teams in the past, but a lot of guys have been playing winning football around here.
"Defensively I think we made a lot of progress, a lot less mental errors, probably played more together as a unit than what we did a year ago."
Although sophomore quarterback A.J. McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims split time with both sides, their numbers were nearly identical.
McCarron completed 21 of 38 passes for 222 yards with one interception and one touchdown, while Sims was 19 of 38 for 229 yards and one interception.
"All in all I thought they did a good job of managing the game," Saban said. "We didn''t have a lot of issues."
Even though Alabama returns nearly every defensive starter, the first-unit offense was able to accumulate 338 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per play, while the second-teamers had 276 (4.4).
After finishing with 167 total yards (49 rushing, 85 receiving and 33 returning) and scoring a touchdown running back Trent Richardson won the Dixie Howell Memorial Award as game MVP, while Barrett Jones took home the Dwight Stephenson Award for best lineman.
"I like catching the ball and showing my different talents," Richardson said.
However, the numbers were a little misleading with three safeties -- Barron, Jarrick Williams (shoulder) and Nick Perry (shoulder) -- playing in no-contact jerseys to avoid risk of re-injury.
"Even though it is Trent Richardson, who''s an explosive player, I feel like our tackling needs to be a little better," Hightower said. "I think I got a little more frustrated than they did. Playing with technique and fundamentals, knowing that they''re going to be back there to make the tackles, only to tag off and then they run 10 more yards before (the officials) blow the whistle, that''s a little frustrating."
Barron''s score came at the end of the opening drive when he scooped up the ball after McCarron fumbled on second-and-goal from the 1. But the White team managed only a field goal the rest of the scrimmage.
Meanwhile, the Crimson side had Richardson turning a short catch into a 20-yard touchdown and early enrollee Dee Hart taking an end around 17 yards for another. For that, the winning side will get to enjoy a steak dinner Wednesday, while the losing side gets franks and beans.
"It''s my first year eating steak," Jones said. "I''m sick and tired of eating beans."
Alabama also unveiled the Saban statue in Walk of Champions plaza, where national championship coaches are honored, and last year''s team captains participated in the annual ceremony at Denny Chimes where their names and handprints are set in concrete.
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