Courtesy of Alabama Athletics
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. â€“ In what turned out to be a very exciting spring game, the White team came back from a 17-7 deficit to defeat the Crimson team, 23-17, in front of an overflow crowd of 91,312 and a live television audience on watching on ESPN. Freshman quarterback A.J McCarron found junior wide receiver Brandon Gibson in the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game.
â€œI think itâ€™s fantastic, the atmosphere thatâ€™s created by our fans,â€ said head coach Nick Saban. â€œTo have over 90,000 people at the spring game, I think this is the second most, the first one was in 2007, and it sends a positive message about passion, enthusiasm, tradition, and that this is a great place to play in terms of interest and enthusiasm and weâ€™re excited about it.â€
The White squad only managed a net of four yards rushing, but completed 18 of 39 passes for a total of 296 yards. The Crimson team was more balanced, collecting 99 yards rushing and 154 through the air. Both teams struggled on third down, going a combined 3 for 25 on the day.
McCarron finished the game hitting 12 of 28 pass attempts for a game-high 196 yards and two touchdowns to zero interceptions. Senior quarterback Greg McElroy led the Crimson passing attack, connecting on 12 of 22 attempts for 142 yards. McElroy threw one touchdown and one interception. Junior running back Mark Ingram led all rushers, picking up 90 yards on nine carries, including a long of 60. Gibson was the star receiver of the game, catching eight passes for 142 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore defensive back Robert Lester, playing for the White team, was the gameâ€™s leading tackler with eight tackles.
â€œI thought the way our players competed out there today and the effort was good,â€ Saban stated. â€œI think the most important thing now is that weâ€™re not an offense, weâ€™re not a defense, we have come together as a team.â€
The Crimson team was on the board first thanks to a 20-yard field goal from sophomore placekicker Jeremy Shelley with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter. The drive covered 40 yards in seven plays, but stalled at the two when Ingram was stuffed on a third down carry.
The White team responded just before the end of the quarter, taking a 7-3 lead. McCarron completed three of his four passes on the drive, connecting with sophomore running back Trent Richardson for 28 yards for the first touchdown of the game. Freshman place kicker Cade Foster made the extra point.
The Crimson team struck back early in the second quarter, as McElroy found junior wide receiver Marquis Maze for a 39 yard touchdown pass at the 10:54 mark. That was the only play of the drive, and Shelley drilled the extra point to give the Crimson team a 10-7 lead, which held for the remainder of the half.
McElroy and McCarron each had one touchdown pass in the opening half, while McElroy was also picked off once. Ingram led the Crimson team with 28 yards rushing in the opening half, while Richardson picked up 23 yards rushing. Richardson also caught two passes for 55 yards and one touchdown in the half, compiling 78 total yards.
The Crimson team extended its lead to 17-7 in the third quarter. Freshman running back Eddie Lacy capped off a five-play, 80 yard drive with a five yard touchdown run. The drive took a mere 2:40 off the clock. Lacy finished the day with 32 yards on six carries.
The White teamâ€™s comeback began in the fourth quarter, when sophomore quarterback Star Jackson hit junior running back Demetrius Goode on a 25-yard touchdown toss. Foster hit the extra point to cut the deficit to 17-14 with 10:43 to play. The drive covered 82 yards in eight plays, elapsing 5:52 from the clock.
The defenses were dominant for much of the day, and that held true for most of the fourth quarter. The White team was finally able to establish another drive, going 59 yards in nine plays to put Foster in position for a game-tying field goal. Foster was solid, knocking home the 27-yard kick to knot the score at 17-17.
Play was frantic the rest of the afternoon, with both teams failing to successfully execute the hurry-up offense. With 3:13 remaining until the end of the game, there were a total of four possessions. The Crimson team went three and out from their own 12-yard line, giving the ball back to the White team at the Crimson 48 with just over a minute left to play. The White team was out of timeouts, but only needed a field goal for the win.
McCarron started the drive with an incompletion, but managed to convert a fourth-and-one with a five-yard scramble. The White team then attempted to slip a draw play to Goode past the Crimson defense, but the play lost five yards. With the clock running under 20 seconds to play, the White team hurried to the line for a deep pass attempt on third and 15. McCarronâ€™s pass was batted around before falling to the field harmlessly.
There was time for one final play, as the White squad faced a fourth and 15 at the 39-yard line. McCarron dropped back and floated the ball down the sideline to Gibson. Gibson slipped just behind the coverage in the end zone, and the ball dropped perfectly into his arms for the 39-yard touchdown pass and catch that secured the 23-17 victory for the White team.
â€œI think that all the choices and decisions this team makes between now and next year, in terms of what theyâ€™re commitment to a standard of excellence is, is how we continue to improve, how we develop as a team,â€ added Saban. â€œWhether itâ€™s the work ethic that we have, the accountability, the responsibility to do the things that we need to do for everyone to do their job, the positive energy we do it with, and the togetherness and leadership, we have to get everybody to do it on the same page.â€
Ingram was named the Dixie Howell Memorial Most Valuable Player, while defensive tackle Marcell Dareus collected the Dwight Stephenson Lineman of the Game thanks to his total of three tackles, including one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.