Crimson falls to White at Tide’s A-Day
by Mark Edwards
TUSCALOOSA — Call it the revenge of the Alabama defense.

After getting burned pretty good in two spring scrimmages, the Crimson Tide’s defenders intercepted six passes, recovered three fumbles and scored a couple of touchdowns in Saturday’s annual A-Day Game.

But in the end, the White team — which had the first-team offense — drove 70 yards to score the game-winning touchdown with 1:04 to play. T.J. Yeldon rushed 7 yards to give the White squad a 17-14 victory over the Crimson team.

“Obviously, when you play against each other, when one team gets a lot of turnovers — makes interceptions, gets fumbles — that’s a good thing,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “But the other part of it is when you turn it over and you’re playing against yourself, that’s not such a good thing. That was something that hasn’t happened really all spring.”

Yeldon won the Dixie Howell Memorial Award as the A-Day Game’s most valuable player for the second straight year. He rushed for 69 yards and gained 70 more on seven pass receptions.

McCarron completed 19 of 30 passes for 223 yards and a 43-yard touchdown to Kenny Bell. But he got intercepted twice, including one pass tipped by Deion Belue and caught by Vinnie Sunseri at the end of the first half. Sunseri returned it 86 yards for a touchdown, cutting the White lead to 10-7.

In the second half, tight end Brian Vogler fumbled a catch into the hands of Crimson team safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, who returned it 55 yards for a touchdown. That put the Crimson squad — which had the first-team defense — ahead 14-10 with 2:01 to play.

For the White team, Nick Perry intercepted two passes, while Landon Collins and Tyler Owens had one each. In addition to Sunseri’s interception, the Crimson team also got one from Cyrus Jones, who moved from receiver to defensive back this spring.

“I think today, on defense, both teams combined gave up 17 points,” Perry said. “I think we all played good.”

Then he added, “But (Saban) is still going to critique us on Monday on film.”

McCarron dismissed the importance of the turnovers, instead referring to the winning team’s A-Day meal: “Everybody had a good day. I’m just glad I’m eating steak.”

The losers get beans and hot dogs.

“We run about eight plays. They’re all the same plays, and the defense knows everything we’re doing,” McCarron added, hinting the offense did much more in the closed spring scrimmages.

The Crimson team -- with Alec Morris running the second-team offense -- put together its best drive at the end. The Crimsons went 59 yards before stalling at the White 11. On the final two plays, Morris threw incomplete to redshirt freshman Chris Black.

Morris wound up completing 10 of 18 passes for 141 yards, which gave him a better day than rising junior Blake Sims, who is McCarron’s chief backup. Sims completed 5 of 10 passes for 52 yards with two interceptions.

Phillip Ely and Parker McLeod took snaps for the White squad, and Luke Del Rio and Cooper Bateman also got to play for the Crimsons.

“I would say that (the backup quarterbacks) all need to improve,” Saban said. “Alec probably played as well as any of them. Blake, who’s had a really good spring and made really good progress if you look at the spring as a whole, sort of went a little bit rat-trap out there today, aborted his reads early and started scrambling, didn’t do things like he’d really improved during scrimmages as well as through the spring.

“I thought some of the young guys were a little bit antsy and had trouble managing the game, getting in the right formation, getting the call, which can be expected.”

Saturday’s game marked the 15th and final practice of the Tide’s spring. Alabama won’t practice together as a squad until August.

“We’ve made progress this spring,” Saban said. “But it’s a work in progress and we have to continue to make that progress throughout the summer and fall camp if we want to be the kind of team we’re capable of.”

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter @MarkSportsStar.
© 2013