White Downs Crimson In Tide's A-Day
Knowing there are going to be surprises, it is perhaps incongruous to say that "it was a surprise" that the team with the first defense defeated the team with the first offense in Alabama's spring football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. The bottom line is that the White – made up of the first defense and second offense – defeated the Crimson (first offense, second defense) as Bama concluded spring practice with its annual public display.
It is not unusual to hear dismissal of a spring intrasquad game as nothing but a scrimmage. The difference is actually as great as steak to beans. In fact, that's part of the equation, because Crimson Tide tradition decrees that the winners eat steak and the losers eat beans. And they eat together.
Thus, upcoming sophomore safety Vinnie Sunseri deemed it more important to assure the steak dinner for himself and his teammates than to go for a little more glory. With time running out, Sunseri, playing for the White, picked off Crimson quarterback A.J. McCarron at the White 21 and headed towards the Crimson goalline.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the end zone. With just seconds to play, Sunseri stopped at the five yard line and knelt down. That meant that only one play was necessary to run out the clock and assure victory for the White and steak for Sunseri.
Of course, in part because of Sunseri, that issue was really already decided. The White won by 24-15, with Sunseri scoring the final points of the game with 1:16 to play. Sunseri scooped up a fumble caused by his safety sidekick, Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, and took it 21 yards into the end zone. Cade Foster's kick made it the final a nine-point margin.
If there was a surprise, it was that T.J. Yeldon, who entered The University as a true freshman in January, was Dixie Howell Award winner as the game's most valuable player.
Yeldon was the game's leading rusher (16 carries for 88 yards) and the top receiver (five catches for 91 yards and a touchdown) for the winning White squad.
It was also something of a surprise that second team quarterback Phillip Sims, who had been limited much of the spring with a sore shoulder, was able to complete 9-12 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Sims hit Yeldon on a short pass that the freshman turned into a 50-yard touchdown. Sims also connected with another true freshman/January enrollee in Chris Black for a 44-yard touchdown.
Adrian Hubbard, the White's jack linebacker, was winner of the Dwight Stephenson Award as the game's top lineman with seven tackles, including four for losses, and three sacks.
McCarron had a reasonably good day, completing 29-42 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns, but was plagued by three interceptions. One came on the first play of the game, another near the end of the first half when the Crimson team might have been able to grab the upper hand with late points, and the final one in the desperation situation in the final moments of the game. The fumble that Sunseri returned for a touchdown came when Clinton-Dix stripped the ball from tight end Michael Williams.
After Robert Lester of the White intercepted AJ McCarron on the first play of the scrimmage, the Crimson changed strategy on its second possession. Tailback Jalston Fowler had three straight runs between the tackles for a first down.
Nevertheless, the first quarter ended without a score.
The first score of the game came on the second play of the second quarter when linebacker C.J. Mosley caught White tailback Yeldon in the end zone. The safety was set up when Cody Mandell's 42-yard punt was downed inside the one-yard line by Dee Milliner.
Third quarterback Phillip Ely, playing for the White team, directed the first offensive score. Cade Foster was good on a 48-yard field goal to give the White a 3-2 lead miday through the second quarter.
McCarron led the Crimson to a go-ahead touchdown late in the second quarter. Kenny Bell made an excellent sideline catch for a 32-yard gain to the White 17 and two plays later Christion Jones snagged McCarron's pass in the end zone for the touchdown. Jeremy Shelley's extra point kick made it Crimson 9, White 3 with 1:28 remaining in the first half.
It looked like McCarron might take his team to a late score after the Crimson punted the White to inside the five-yard line with just 22 seconds remaining in the half. McCarron completed a 28-yard pass to Kevin Norwood and a 29-yard pass to H-back Brian Vogler as the Crimson moved to the White 28 with seven seconds remaining. McCarron's last pass of the half, however, was intercepted by White safety Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix.
Phillip Sims, who had been advertised as having a sore shoulder following earlier scrimmages, put the White on top with a 40-yard scoring strike to true freshman Chris Black midway through the third quarter. Foster's extra point kick made it 10-9. The drive was keyed by another true freshman, tailback T.J. Yeldon, who had runs of 20 and 15 yards in the six-play, 72-yard drive.
Late in the third quarter Yeldon got his own touchdown. Yeldon took a short pass from Sims and went 50 yards to paydirt, completing a five-play, 80-yard drive. Foster's PAT made it 17-9 for the White.
Dee Hart gained 35 yards on a run to the white 47 with time in the third quarter running out. The Crimson then dusted off a play from Alabama's 42-14 rout of Auburn last fall. On the final play of the third quarter, McCarron handed off to Dee Hart, who flipped it back to the quarterback, and McCarron hit Bell going into the end zone to pull the Crimson to within two points at 17-15. McCarron's pass to Bell on a two-point conversion try was broken up by cornerback John Fulton. The two-play drive had covered 70 yards in 45 seconds.
Sunseri's return of the fumble for the touchdown put the game away.
The Crimson had a statistical advantage with 16 first downs to 14 and 61 plays for 367 yards to 55 plays and 284 yards for the White. The Crimson, however, suffered three interceptions to none for the White, and had the only lost fumble.
The White had 25 rushes for 66 yards, the Crimson 19 rushes for 63. White passing was 19-30 for 218 yards, Crimson (all McCarron) 29-42 for 304.
Penalties were at a minimum with the White 1-15 and the Crimson 3-15.
Dee Hart led the Crimson rushing with five carries for 44 yards. Fowler had 8-22.
Top receivers for the White behind Yeldon were Harrison Jones with 4-29, Chris Black 3-61. For the Crimson, Kenny Bell had 5-86 with one touchown, Kevin Norwood 4-53, Hart 4-32, and Michael Williams 4-20.
Top defender statistically was C.J. Mosley for the Crimson, who was in on 10 tackles (including one for a safety). Tana Patrick had seven for the Crimson, while Travell Dixon and Jesse Williams had six each. Behind Hubbard, the White leaders were Ed Stinson in on six tackles and Sunseri on five.
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