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April 17, 2010TUSALOOSA _ If it wasn't enough that Bryant-Denny Stadium had been filled, ESPN was broadcasting live and numerous big-time recruits appeared to be as impressed as anyone, Saturday's A-Day game had something extra.
Would you believe sudden death, Nick Saban style?
With the Crimson and White teams deadlocked when time expired, the coach decided to keep the scrimmage going. But the extra "period" lasted just one play when quarterback A.J. McCarron found wide receiver Brandon Gibson in the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown to give the White a 23-17 comeback victory.
"The last play I saw the safety inside, he was a little bit too far inside," Gibson said. "Usually in those plays the corners are used to us running outside, he got wide and I just took it straight up the field.
"(McCarron) gave me a great ball."
As for which team got to go fist, the White offense, with the second-unit going against their defense counterparts, was already on the field.
"There wasn't going to be any overtime," Saban said. "It was going to be sudden death. Everybody was going to go for it on fourth down. It was getting implemented there with two seconds to go, and the teams were going to take their shots because somebody is going to eat steaks and somebody is going to eat beans on Monday. Other than that, it didn't matter.
"As the commissioner I have to represent the winning club so, therefore, I have to eat steak."
The touchdown completed the White's 17-point fourth quarter when Gibson caught six passes for 107 yards to finish with eight receptions for 142 yards. Nevertheless, running back Mark Ingram with 121 all-purpose yards was named game MVP, and defensive end Marcell Dareus the outstanding lineman.
"I think we did lot of good things today," Ingram said. "But we still have a lot to work on."
A couple of fun trick plays got the offenses moving early on.
For the White, it tight end Brad Smelley lining up in the Wildcat formation, taking the snap and tossing it back to McCarron, who connected with running back Trent Richardson for a 27-yard gain. It set up Richardson's 28-yard touchdown pass three plays later.
The Crimson squad had the only turnover of the day on the subsequent possession, when Greg McElroy's deep pass to Marquis Maze was picked off by cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, but made up for it on its next play. After running back Eddie Lacy took the handoff he turned and flipped the ball back to McElroy, who this time got it to Maze for a 39-yard touchdown.
Lacy later got into the end zone on a 5-yard score set up by Ingram's 60-yard carry around the right side, with reserve guard Kellen Williams providing the key block.
That was typical of a day when Alabama showcased its depth, with even third- and fourth-stringers made contributions. While the White tallied six sacks and eight tackles for a loss, the Crimson had five sacks and eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage. All of the sacks were by different players, and of the tackles for a loss only linebacker Courtney Upshaw (two), Dareus (1?) and linebacker Ed Stinson (1?) had more than one.
"I thought the way our players competed out there today, the effort was good," Saban said. "I thought there was a lot of toughness. I don't think the execution was always what you like for it to be in terms of crispness. I was pleased with the overall performance with a limited offense and a limited defense, how our players competed in the game and how they played in the game.
"I think the most important thing now is that we're not an offense, we're not a defense, we've come together as a team."
Dareus agreed, adding about the rest of the offseason: "That's when it all counts. You have to work hard when no one's looking."
Running back Demetrius Goode began the White team's comeback with an impressive 25-yard touchdown pass from Star Jackson after he got a step on linebacker Nico Johnson, and kicker Cade Foster's 27-yard field goal tied the game at 17 with 3:13 remaining.
However, with most of announced crowd of 91,312 -- which exceeded the stadium's capacity until construction of the south end zone expansion is completed this summer -- having already left and ESPN cutting away at the end of regulation, most missed the decisive play.
"It's great," Dareus said of the crowd. "No matter how hard spring was, how hard things were, how much we had to run, when we have the fans, they have your back, it makes you train hard."
"I've been places where you really work hard to get players to finish one practice," Saban said. "We have to work on getting our players to focus on the last practice or two because the A-Day game is such a big deal. They're looking forward to the game, they want to play in the game, and I think it's a good thing."
So is the coach getting his steak Monday, while McElroy, who completed 12 of 22 passes for 142 yards, appeared to be a little dismayed about how his side lost. Despite being 14-0 as the starting quarterback he'll be eating beans Monday.
"I'll have to settle for the rings," McElroy said of the national championship and SEC championship jewelry the players will receive. "We get them that night."
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