Alabama offense, special teams struggle in A-Day game

Kevin Connell

In nearly every aspect, Saturday’s A-Day game felt like a typical Alabama football game – the performance.

The special teams missed two field goals and an extra point.

At halftime, both offenses combined for no points and only 516 yards for the game.

And in the starting quarterback race for next season, no one stood out enough to take the lead.

In the end, though, the White team held the upper hand, defeating the Crimson team 17-13 in Alabama’s final tune-up of the spring at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“Nobody ever has a bad spring game, let’s start with that,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I think first of all, everyone needs to understand that I was very encouraged by the offseason program that we had with this team. I was very encouraged by the spring practice that we had, but I think everyone needs to understand that in games like today, we really limit what we do on offense and defense, and we really don’t feature players. I think that may be a little bit of a disadvantage sometimes to our players.”

Senior quarterback Blake Sims, who has been anointed as the starting quarterback for the time being this spring, threw for 178 yards on 13-of-30 passing with two interceptions in a losing effort for the Crimson team. Sophomore quarterback Cooper Bateman, the White team starter, went 11-of-24 for 156 yards.

Sims’ first interception was returned 29 yards by D.J. Pettway for the game’s opening score in the third quarter to give the White team the lead.

“Blake Sims, there are probably some things that he can do as a quarterback that we really don’t feature in this game,” Saban said. “For him to be an effective player at his position, in fairness to him, it’s probably good for us to do things like that.

Both Sims and Bateman threw a touchdown pass in the final minutes of the game – Bateman to ArDarius Stewart for a 32-yard touchdown, and Sims to Chris Black for a 55-yard score with 21 seconds left.

“I didn’t think the consistency on offense was what I would’ve liked for it to have been today,” Saban said. “We did make some plays, but there wasn’t the consistency that you would like to see in the offense.”

One reason for that was the play of the Crimson Tide’s front seven – a group Saban said needed to improve this spring.

Along with Pettway, sophomore defensive lineman Jonathan Allen shared the honors for the Dwight Stephenson Lineman Award. Allen was credited with five tackles four for loss, two sacks and a field goal block.

“I really thought that our front people on defense made a lot of improvement this spring,” Saban said. “We’re more athletic, we probably have more depth, we have more guys that can rush, and I think that showed up in the game today.”

Allen blocked kicker Adam Griffith’s 47-yard attempt near the end of the first half to keep the score tied at 0-0. Griffith also missed a 31-yard attempt wide left earlier in the quarter and an extra point after Sims’ touchdown pass to Black.

“Adam Griffith is a really talented guy. Obviously, we would like for him to be a little more consistent,” Saban said.

Offensively, running back T.J. Yeldon won the Dixie Howell Memorial Most Valuable Player Award for the third A-Day in a row with 95 yards on 11 carries. His 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter tied the game for the Crimson team.

“It is great having a running back like that, especially as an offensive lineman,” center Ryan Kelly said. “To have a guy like that who can miss defenders, obviously not every play is going to be perfect but with a guy like that back there running the ball some big plays can spring up.”

The 73,506 fans in attendance were the highest in college football this spring, but the lowest for an A-Day game in the Saban era.