Croyle Leads Crimson Win

In the days when Alabama's football team was running roughshod over the opposition, there was a joke that the turning point came at the coin toss. The turning point in Alabama's spring game this year came earlier than that, specifically when Head Coach Mike Price decided to put the first team offense and defense together on the Crimson team.

There was no suspense as those first teamers romped to a 47-0 win over the White. And, as they say, it really wasn't that close. An appreciative crowd of about 30,000 braved a day chillier than most in which Bama plays real games to watch the end to spring practice.

The tone was set early. Charles Jones, who is an all-star caliber safety, turned in an interception that set the Crimson up at the White 25. On first down, quarterback Brodie Croyle would complete the first of his 13 passes and the first of his three touchdown passes, a 25-yard strike to Zach Fletcher. Croyle, who was chosen by media as winner of the Dixie Howell Award as the most valuable player in the game, would finish with 13 completions in 22 attempts with no interceptions for 260 yards. He did not play after the opening drive of the third quarter after leading the Crimson to 44 points. Croyle had missed a practice with the flu and lost 12 pounds in the final week with the illness.

The team statistics were as lopsided as might be expected. The Crimson had 19 first downs (7 rushing, 10 pass, 2 penalty), the White 2 (1 rush, 1 pass). The Crimson had 57 plays for 410 yards (7.2 yards per play), the White 31 plays for 34 yards (1.1). Crimson runners carried 26 times for 137 yards, White rushers 22 carries for -12 yards. Crimson passing was 15 of 31 with one interception for 273 yards with one interception, White quarterbacks hitting 11 of 17 for 46 yards with one interception. There was only one fumble in the game, lost by the White. Penalties were not a problem, the Crimson picking up five for 38 yards, the White four for 28. The Crimson converted seven of 12 third down plays, the White one of nine.

The only place the White had a clear advantage on the Crimson was in punting. White punters, led by Bo Freeland with two kicks for 89 yards, had seven boots for a 37.3 average. The Crimson did not punt.

Individually, the Crimson was led in rushing by Shaud Williams with eight carries for 67 yards. Walk-on Josh Smith had four carries for 39 yards (including a 20-yard effort that was the longest running play of the day) and scored twice on one-yard runs. Ray Hudson had seven carries for 30 yards. The White was led by Kenneth Darby with nine runs for eight yards.

The brightest spot for the White was the work of walk-on freshman quarterback Michael Machen, who hit five of seven passes for 32 yards in mop-up work. Spencer Pennington, clearly the number two quarterback all spring, did not have a good day. With the White he was six of 10 for only 14 yards with one interception and with the Crimson he was one of five for seven yards with another interception (returned by Carlos Andrews for 17 yards).

Triandos Luke was the top Crimson receiver with five catches for 71 yards and one touchdown. Luke also scored on a two-yard end-around run. Zach Fletcher had three catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, Clint Johnston three for 47 and a touchdown, Shaud Williams two for 14 and Dre Fulgham one for 45. Lance Taylor had three catches for 14 yards to lead the White. Matt Ragland had two catches for eight yards, Matt Miller one for 19.

Bama's head coach said, "Considering the weather, I thought the first group looked pretty good, pretty crisp."

Price said he elected to put the first teamers together for the spring game "to give some continuity. We spent all spring with the ones (first offense) going against the ones (first defense), but in the fall it won't be that way. The ones will be on the same side."

Price said from the start of spring practice through the A-Day game the team showed "vast improvement. We're not where we want to be and we're not where we will be. But now they know the plays and can work on them on their own." He said the players would also resume their weight room regimen, which was interrupted for spring practice. Additionally, Price said, "Now we have some tape of them running the offense and defense. Before spring they were watching tapes of Washington State. Now they can watch themselves."

He said he thought the A-Day game was important for improving depth. "Everyone got to play," he said. As for play-calling, Price said he thought the A-Day game was "representative, which I hope is unpredictable and unexpected. We don't want to be a team that always runs on first and 10 and always passes on third and long."

He said the biggest improvement of the spring was made by the offensive line in pass protection.

As for the game, he noted there were no delay of game penalties and no center-quarterback exchange problems. And, he said, "We were organized. We looked like we knew what we were doing. We didn't have a lot of alignment errors."

Price said he hoped the game impressed some 175 prospects on hand to see the game on unofficial visits. He said that group included "35 to 40 of the top-ranked prospects in the South."

In addition to the rushing and passing touchdowns. Brian Bostick hit two field goals, 36- and 19-yard efforts.

Other than the opening touchdown and the first field goal, which came after the White fumbled a kickoff, the Crimson had relatively long drives for scores. Croyle's touchdown passes in addition to the pass to Fletcher were a 24-yarder to tight end Clint Johnston on a broken play and a seven-yard bullet to Luke.

Crimson defensive end Antwan Odom had four individual tackles, including two for losses totaling 12 yards, and was named winner of the Dwight Stephenson Award as the game's outstanding lineman. The top tacklers were White players: defensive back Carlos Andrews with nine and linebacker Juwan Garth with six.

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