Alabama was hardly vanilla in its spring football game

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and tailback Najee Harris had explosive plays

Alabama’s football team concluded spring practice Saturday with what had been widely advertised as a game that would be vanilla, nothing flashy for future opponents to hone in on. As spring football games go, though, it had high entertainment value, including a dramatic ending.

The White squad – made up of first defense and second offense -- led for most of the game by as many as 14 points, but the Crimson team – first offense, second defense – took advantage of a late opportunity to pull the game out on the final play of the game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

JK Scott, ordinarily the Crimson Tide’s punter, missed a 45-yard field goal for the White team with 1:09 to play, and then connected on a 30-yard field goal while kicking for the Crimson on the final play of the contest.

Thus, the Crimson will enjoy the fancy steak dinner while the White will suffer through a plate of beans when the spoils of victory and the agony of defeat are settled.

Although word from Alabama’s athletics complex has been that Jalen Hurts, last year’s Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year in leading Bama to a 14-1 record as a freshman, was in no trouble insofar as his job, the competition from true freshman Tua Tagovailoa looked pretty stiff most of the day.

In the end, though, Hurts took the Crimson team on an eight-play drive to get the winning points from the leg of Scott. That winning march got a big boost from a mistake by White safety Ronnie Harrison, who was called for a targeting foul on a third-and-14 play in which the pass from Hurts to Calvin Ridley had already been missed. That first down was followed by passes of 9 yards and 22 yards to tailback Josh Jacobs and a l4-yard scramble by Hurts. Two plays later, with three seconds remaining, Scott lined up for his winning field goal and knocked it through.

There was plenty of offense in the game. Tagovailoa completed 18 of 32 passes for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns with 1 interception (which went for a 60-yard touchdown runback by Terrell Hall) and Hurts completed 16-25 passes for 301 yards with 2 TDs and an interception that almost certainly cost his team a touchdown.

Playing for the White team with Tua, true freshman Jerry Jeudy was selected winner of the Dixie Howell Award as the most outstanding player in the game. He had 5 catches for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns. Redshirt freshman T.J. Simmons had 6 catches for 82 yards and a TD for the White, with Xavian Marks adding 3 for 52 yards and tight end Irv Smith and true freshman tailback Najee Harris each having 3 for 37.

Harris led all rushers with 17 carries for 70 yards.

For the Crimson squad, Calvin Ridley had 4 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown and Robert Foster 2 for 115 yards and a TD. Josh Jacobs was his team’s leading rusher with 7 carries for 28 yards and also had 4 pass receptions for 49 yards.

Defensively, White team linebacker Keith Holcombe led all tacklers with 10 stops on the day, including three solo tackles and two quarterback sacks. The White team registered nine sacks on the day, led by linebackers Holcombe, Rashaan Evans and Christian Miller, with two each. Raekwon Davis led the Crimson team defensively with seven tackles (two primary), while cornerback Levi Wallace had four tackles, an interception, and two pass breakups.

Scott averaged 45.3 yards on 11 punts, punting for both teams, and landed three punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line and had four punts travel more than 50 yards including a long of 55.

Scott was 3-for-4 in field goal attempts, kicking for both teams. He made attempts of 37, 30, and 20 yards while missing one from 45 yards. Andy Pappanastos missed on two field goal tries, one from 31 and another from 38.

The White team opened the scoring on its first possession driving 60 yards in five plays and getting a 15-yard Tagovailoa pass to Simmons, who made a nice play in tight coverage.

It appeared the Crimson would tie it quickly when Hurts hit Ridley for a 60-yard gain to the 4, but Trevon Diggs turned it back with an interception in the end zone.

The White then moved 72 yards in three plays with Tagovailoa hitting Xavian Marks for 47 yards to get it started. It ended with a 25-yard scoring pass that involved some luck. Tagovailoa threw to Simmons, but the ball bounced off his hands, hit a defender, and ricocheted into the hands of Jeudy, who ran it in from 25 yards out and a 14-0 lead.

The Crimson offense answered. On the second play after the kickoff, from the Crimson 35, Hurts hit wide receiver Robert Foster on a streak pattern at the White 20 and Foster raced to the end zone. Pappanastos kicked the extra point, narrowing the White lead to 14-7 with 5:56 left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the White team took over at its 20-yard line and marched 80 yards to a score in four plays. Tagovailoa hit Najee Harris for 13 yards on a pass to the White 33, then hit Jeudy for 38 yards to the Crimson 29. Tagovailoa capped the march with a 29-yard pass to Jeudy for a touchdown.

The White looked to be about to put the game away late in the second quarter, driving towards the Crimson goal. But White team linebacker Terrell Hall intercepted a screen pass and had an easy 60-yard run to the end zone to narrow the margin to 21-14 with only 2:06 before intermission.

Surprisingly, the Crimson was able to get another score, again a field goal with no time left on the clock. The Crimson went 44 yards in five plays to close the half with a 37-yard Scott field goal as time expired, making it 21-17 for the White.

The most efficient drive of the game was led by quarterback Mac Jones in the scoreless third quarter. Starting at its 22, the White went 75 yards in 13 plays, finishing the third period and a couple of minutes of the fourth quarter before Scott hit a 20-yard field goal, making it a 24-17 lead.

 Late in the fourth, Hurts connected with Ridley on a 37-yard touchdown pass that tied the game 24-24.

Most would agree that in a real game, there would not have been some fourth down play attempts as both teams tried to end the game in regulation. Eventually, the Crimson did.

 

Video by A.P. Steadham 

 


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