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First-team defense gets the better of offense in A-Day Game

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Nick Saban wants answers.

Following Alabama’s A-Day Game on Saturday, the Crimson Tide head coach wanted to know if the media coaches for the losing Crimson team (first-team offense, second-team defense) had found their way to his postgame press conference inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“I’ve got some questions for you, aight,” Saban said once he spotted them. “You’ve got the player of the year in college football on your team. You’ve got the guy that won the Biletnikoff playing receiver, aight. You’ve got more guys coming back on offense than probably any team in the country. What went wrong? I mean this is the kind of shit you ask me all the time.”

The White team (first-team defense, second-team offense) prevailed Saturday afternoon with a 31-17 win over the Crimson squad. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw a late touchdown and interception on 19-of-37 passing while the trio of starting receivers had some uncharacteristic drops in the scrimmage. But the play of the first-team defense shouldn’t go without praise.

Alabama’s starting defense kept one of the most potent offenses in the entire country last year in check for nearly 60 minutes -- though freshman quarterback Paul Tyson also played with the Crimson offense -- by only allowing 17 points and 317 total yards in the annual spring game.

That total included 13 rushing yards on 22 attempts (including sack yardage).

Because of it, the players will soon be enjoying a steak dinner for the victory.

“I felt like we played very well,” said linebacker Dylan Moses, who is 3-0 in A-Day Games. “I didn’t really get to see the other side, the Crimson team. But as far as like the ones, I feel like we played with the same intensity, we would run to the ball, all on the same page, communication was good. So, it was all right.”

The White defense registered five sacks, eight tackles for loss and six pass breakups. 

imageAlabama corner Josh Jobe (28) and linebacker Dylan Moses (32) combine to tackle Najee Harris. (Photo: Stuart McNair, 247Sports)

Linebacker Anfernee Jennings received the Dwight Stephenson Lineman of the A-Day Game Award. Safety Xavier McKinney and linebacker Joshua McMillon led the team with seven tackles apiece while cornerback Trevon Diggs and linebacker Jaylen Moody intercepted passes. Moody returned his 30 yards for a defensive touchdown in the third quarter to give the White team a 31-10 lead.

It might not show up in the box score, young players like linebacker Eyabi Anoma and cornerback Josh Jobe had strong days, too. True freshman DJ Dale started with the ones at nose tackle.

Moody was one of two young middle linebackers that recorded interceptions Saturday with true freshman Shane Lee also picking off a pass for the Crimson team. At a position where depth was a concern throughout the spring, the younger players showed potential in the A-Day Game.

“Yeah, of course,” Moses said. “Just being able to have younger guys stepping up, filling their roles and doing the things they have to do. That’s things we’re going to need during the season because you never know what’s going to happen. We’re going to need guys to step up.”

Alabama entered the spring with an offense that returned six starters from last year and several other key contributors. One of those starters, right tackle Jedrick Wills, sat out of the scrimmage with an injury and his replacement, Matt Womack, left with a shoulder injury. Still, in the spring, the defense is usually ahead of the offense, but that wasn’t the case for the Tide in the early goings.

Saturday’s public scrimmage, however, left the defense with a much-needed confidence boost as the team enters the offseason and inches ever closer to the start of the 2019 campaign.

“It gives us a lot of confidence because the main thing is that everyone has to be on the same page,” Moses said. “If we get everybody on the same page and everybody does their job, we can get the job done. So, throughout every single play that goes throughout the game, whether you make a mistake or not, it’s on to the next play, on to the next play and make sure communication is good. If we can do that with our offense, we can do that with any offense in the country.”

Contact Charlie Potter by 247Sports' personal messaging or on Twitter (@Charlie_Potter).

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