The White Team notched a 48-40 win over the Red Team in the University of West Alabama's Annual Red-White Spring Football Game Saturday at Tiger Stadium, but coming out the game, and spring drills in general, with a healthy team is what put the biggest smile on first-year head coach Brett Gilliland's face.
"I thought both sides of the ball got after it really well and we had some good plays both ways," Gilliland said. "One of the best things is we came out of it healthy, and that's a major focus for coaches not only at a spring game, but for the entire spring drills.
"It was a great day weather-wise and a really great crowd," Gilliland said. "The atmosphere was awesome. I come to work every day knowing how blessed I am to be the head football coach at West Alabama and today did nothing but reinforce that again."
With the game set up as an offense versus defense scrimmage, Gilliland and his staff devised a scoring system where the defense could score points for sacks, big plays, sacks, etc.
Running back Jabari Baker opened the scoring for the offense with a 21-yard touchdown run with 10:23 left in the first quarter. Baker finished the day with 37 yards rushing on eight carries. Quarterback Kyle Caldwell was the leading rusher in the scrimmage with 64 yards on four carries.
Caldwell connected with Ty Morgan on a 3-yard scoring pass with 14:56 left in the first half. A 5-yard run by Javae Swindle and a 35-yard scoring toss from Clint Hatten to Shane Andrus rounded out first-half touchdowns. Andrus led Tiger receivers with five receptions for 70 yards.
The 2013 Gulf South Conference offensive player of the year, Caldwell competed 9-of-11 passes for 128 yards. Hatten was 5-for-12 for 101 yards. Dustyn Moseley was 4-for-4 for six yards, while Jeremiah Chandler completed 3-of-5 passes for 27 yards.
"We let our playmakers do what they do early in the game, then we got them out of there," Gilliland said. "I was pleased with the big plays we made today and the fact that we are not forcing them, but letting them happen."
Rashad Greene returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown in the first possession of the second half. Brandon Keel, Ashton Derico, Derrick Upshaw, Jherron Jones and Andreas Lewis all recorded sacks for the Tiger defense.
"We still have a lot to work on, but we are really coming together as a team," Greene said. "I really like the direction we are headed in and can't wait for the fall."
Keel, a linebacker who transferred from South Alabama, led the team with four total tackles, including the sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. In all, the UWA defense recorded eight tackles for loss and Frank Richardson recovered a fumble to stop a drive in the red zone.
UWA opens the 2014 season Sept. 6 at Stillman College in the inaugural "Tiger Bowl". Kickoff is 3 p.m.