April 19, 2014 11:07:37 PM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Before a crowd of 73,506, the White defeated the Crimson 17-13 Saturday in the Alabama football team's annual A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Running back T.J. Yeldon, playing for the Crimson, earned the Dixie Howell Award given to the game's most valuable player. He had 104 yards (95 rushing, 9 receiving), including one rushing touchdown. Yeldon led all players in rushing yards. It marked the third-consecutive year Yeldon has won the honor.
Linebacker DJ Pettway, of the White, and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, of the Crimson, were voted co-winners of the Dwight Stephenson Lineman of the Game Award given to the game's most valuable lineman. Allen was credited with six tackles, including five solo stops. He also had two quarterback sacks for 10 yards, four tackles for loss totaling 18 yards, and a blocked a field goal. Pettway had two tackles and made one of the game's biggest plays, intercepting a pass he returned 29 yards for the first touchdown.
"Nobody ever has a bad spring game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I was very encouraged by the offseason program we had with this team. I was very encouraged by the spring practice we had, but I think everyone needs to understand that in games like today, we really limit what we do on offense and defense and we really don't feature players. I think that may be a little bit of a disadvantage sometimes to our players. With Blake Sims, there are probably some things he can do as a quarterback we really don't feature in this game. For him to be an effective player at his position, in fairness to him, it's probably good for us to do things like that. We really don't feature our skill guys very much, but Amari Cooper had a great spring, as did Christion Jones. We had three running backs that had very good springs."
White quarterback Cooper Bateman was 11 of 24 for 156 yards and one touchdown and no interceptions. Crimson quarterback Blake Sims was 13 of 30 for 178 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. The Crimson had 297 total yards (119 rushing, 178 passing), while the White had 219 yards (54 rushing, 165 passing). The teams combined for six turnovers, three by each team.
"Blake had a really good spring, and he did a really good job in the scrimmages," Saban said. "I thought he was trying to speed everything up a bit, and he tried to speed up with it rather than stay in his rhythm. It's like when a baseball pitcher tries to throw the ball a little harder and all of a sudden he can't throw a strike. I think there's a lot of things he could do to be an effective quarterback he didn't do in this game today. We recruited a guy, and Blake knows this, and Blake embraced the guy before the game, but they're going to compete through the summer and through the fall. But it's also our goal for the quarterback to be the distributor of the ball."
After a scoreless first half in which both teams gained 116 yards of total offense, the White broke on top early in the third quarter when defensive end DJ Pettway intercepted a Blake Sims pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. Griffith's kick gave the White a 7-0 lead with 10 minutes, 20 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Crimson responded a few moments later when T.J. Yeldon scored on a 1-yard run with 6:38 left in the third quarter. Griffith's kick tied the game.
"It is great having a running back like that, especially as an offensive lineman," Alabama center Ryan Kelly said. "To have a guy like that who can miss defenders, obviously not every play is going to be perfect but with a guy like that back there running the ball some big plays can spring up. We just wish we could have done a little bit better blocking to make those big plays happen today. "
After a 40-yard punt by Alec Morris was downed at the White Team 9-yard line, Crimson Team defensive back Maurice Smith forced a fumble by Crimson Team running back Kenyan Drake at the White Team 12-yard line following a 3-yard gain. White Team linebacker Tim Williams recovered the fumble and returned it 5 yards to the White Team 7-yard line. After Yeldon carried for 6 yards on first down, another Yeldon carry for a yard yielded the game-tying touchdown.
The White Team's offense responded to that miscue with its most sustained drive of the game to that point, moving 46 yards in 10 plays to Griffith's go-ahead field goal. A pass from Bateman to ArDarius Stewart for 27 yards highlighted the drive. Altee Tenpenny rushed 5 times for 12 yards on the drive leading to Adam Griffith's 41-yard field goal on the final play of the third quarter gave the White Team a 10-7 lead.
With 3:42 left and holding onto that lead, the White Team took possession at the Crimson 45-yards line after a punt. On the first play, Tenpenny broke free for 16 yards to the Crimson 29. After another Tenpenny run on the next play lost three yards, Bateman connected with ArDarius Stewart for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 2:37 remaining. Griffith's kick gave the White a 17-7 lead.
After an interception by the White's Reggie Ragland on the next possession seemed to seal the outcome, the Crimson forced a punt by the White Team with 1:14 left. Sims and the Crimson engineered an explosive drive in response, marching 79 yards in four plays to pull within 17-13. Sims connected with wide receiver Chris Black on a 55-yard pass play with 21 seconds showing on the clock. Griffith's kick was blocked.
The onside kick by the Crimson was successful, setting them up at the White 40. Sims and Black connected again, this time for 20 yards to the White 25, but the clock expired and the game ended there.
White linebacker Reggie Ragland of the Crimson team had a game-high 10 tackles (2.5 for losses) and an interception. Crimson linebacker Dillon Lee had nine tackles to lead his squad. Other top tacklers were Jonathan Allen (Crimson) with six tackles, two sacks (10 yards), four tackles for loss (18 yards), a blocked field goal, and a quarterback hurry; Trey DePriest (White) with seven tackles, one-half tackle for loss (1 yard), and defensive back Maurice Smith (Crimson) had six tackles and forced a fumble.
Chris Black led all receivers with 78 yards and a touchdown on three catches. Robert Foster led all receivers with four catches for 50 yards. Amari Cooper (Crimson) had three catches for 45 yards, Cyrus Jones (Crimson) had three catches for 22 yards and ArDarius Stewart (White) had two catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.
"I didn't think the consistency on offense was what I would've liked for it to have been today," Saban said. "We did make some plays, but there wasn't the consistency that you would like to see in the offense. However, when you play against each other, what's good for one is not so good for the other, so you have to give the defense some credit. I really thought that our front people on defense made a lot of improvement this spring. We're more athletic, we probably have more depth, we have more guys that can rush, and I think that showed up in the game today. We have some players coming in here in the fall that are going to get some opportunities to contribute at some critical positions. It will also be great to get DeAndrew White back, who's a significant player at receiver. Darren Lake and Eddie Jackson are guys that I think could contribute a lot to our team.
Alec Morris punted for both teams. He punted 15 times for an average of 38.4 yards per punt with 576 total yards. Five of Morris's punts were downed inside the opposing 20-yard line.
"I think the challenge for our team is if you want to continue to have success on a consistent basis, everyone has to buy in to the process of the system of what we do," Saban said. "You can't start questioning it, you have to buy in to it, and you have to believe in it. Everyone has to be a team guy, everyone has to check their ego at the door, there can't be any of that 'what about me' stuff going on, and everything has to start with I need to be the best player I can be for the team. Then, everyone has to ask themselves, I am blank? I am what? This is because everyone has to have a common belief in the things that have made us a good program here. I'm talking about things like toughness, hard work, giving effort, finishing plays, finishing games, and the vision of the standard that we have for the kind of relentless competitive teams that we want to have and have had in the past.