White team’s big plays fuel spring game victory

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White team’s big plays fuel spring game victory

CW / Hannah Saad

CW / Hannah Saad

CW / Hannah Saad

CW / Hannah Saad

James Ogletree, Staff Writer

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The White team rode an efficient passing game with eight plays of 20-plus yards to a 31-17 victory over the Crimson team in Alabama’s annual spring game on Saturday afternoon.

True freshman John Metchie was the game’s MVP after catching five passes for 133 yards, becoming the first early enrollee to win the award since T.J. Yeldon in 2012.

Three of Metchie’s catches for 89 yards came from backup quarterback Mac Jones, who was also a candidate to earn a second straight A-Day MVP after completing 19 of 23 passes for 271 yards.

Head coach Nick Saban praised both players after the game, but issued a reminder of the competition both players faced.

“Don’t read too much into it. The good guys played against the good guys,” Saban said. “Some plays get made because the guy is open and the window is bigger.

“[Metchie] did a good job. Would he catch all those passes if 2 [Patrick Surtain II] or 7 [Trevon Diggs] or somebody’s covering him? I don’t know, but when he does that, that’s good. But relative to what he did today, I think he did an outstanding job.”

Saban acknowledged that Jones, who occasionally struggles to move on from mistakes, did well to shake off an early interception to rebound and have a nice game.

However, the coach also lamented those same mistakes and turnovers as the turning points in the game. A third-down, red-zone drop by the Crimson team (the starting offense) while it led 7-3 left four points on the board. Another drop forced a punt with a minute left before halftime and gave the White team another drive, which ended with Jones hitting redshirt freshman receiver Xavier Williams for a 22-yard touchdown to take a 17-10 lead.

Each of the team’s top four quarterbacks threw an interception, including freshmen Taulia Tagovailoa and Paul Tyson.

“I don’t care what the defense is playing,” Saban said. “We simplified the game out there. I don’t care what play we have on offense; we have to take care of the ball.

“Taulia threw a pick for a pick-six, but I thought he did some things well. He’s sort of naturally instinctive and made some quick decisions. Paul’s a little bit more anxious. … These guys have to learn, grow and develop and we’ll just continue to work with them.”

Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Alabama starter Tua, had the game’s most eye-popping throw: a low-and-away laser to the left side of the end zone while rolling to his left. Jaylen Waddle dragged his toes to secure the 29-yard score.

Both teams’ rushing statistics appeared quite poor, totaling 47 carries for 45 yards. But that includes 12 sacks for 64 yards, so a more accurate reflection of the running game would be 35 carries for 109 yards, still not especially efficient.

Some of that could be attributed to the sprained ankle that sidelined right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., arguably the team’s best run blocker. His replacement, Matt Womack, suffered a shoulder injury during the game as well.

“You’ve got to play with what you have and go out there and continue to execute,” junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “That’s no excuse to why we weren’t getting as good of protection or why we weren’t getting the ball off or getting sacked.”

Running back Najee Harris and receiver Jerry Jeudy had the Crimson team’s two touchdowns; Waddle, Williams and tight end Kedrick James had the three for the White team, which also scored on a pick-six.

After the game receiver DeVonta Smith said the offense’s problems were all internal and self-inflicted.

“As an offense we feel like we left a lot out there,” Smith said. “It was never really what the opposing team does, it’s always us not converting on third downs, everything’s open and we’re dropping passes. That’s just us. It’s nothing that the defense [did] at all.”