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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A 25-yard field goal by Carey Spear as time expired gave Black a 17-15 win over Gold in Vanderbilt's annual Black & Gold Spring Game Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium.
The Black team, comprised mostly of first-teamers held a 14-0 lead entering the fourth quarter, but Gold scored touchdowns on two consecutive drives to make things very interesting at the end for the estimated 14,000 fans in attendance. Instead of electing to tie the game at 14, Gold went for two and was successful, taking a 15-14 lead with 4:40 to play after Johnny McCrary found Tip McKenzie for a 49-yard touchdown and again for the two-point conversion.
"I was glad it got interesting," Head Coach James Franklin said. "We got a lot of situations covered. We were also organized. The coaches did a nice job and the players were locked in. I'm glad it came down to a few plays."
The game was played with a running clock after the first quarter, which left Black with very little time to engineer a game-winning drive, and it didn't look promising for Black at first.
Carta-Samuels, who started for Black and went 14-of-20 for 196 yards and one touchdown, opened the drive by hitting Jonathan Krause for an 11-yard gain, but then had an incomplete pass and was sacked by Darien Bryant on second down. On third down, Bryant again got to the quarterback and teamed up with Ladarius Banks for another sack. The sacks drove the Black team back to the 21-yard line and Carta-Samuels and the offense was faced with fourth-and-25 with just 1:50 to play.
Just when it looked like it was over, Carta-Samuels answered in a resounding way by completing a 44-yard pass to Chris Boyd down the left sideline. Boyd made an outstanding catch in double coverage at the Gold 35-yard line to keep the Black team's chances alive.
With the momentum back in Black's favor, Carta-Samuels connected completed three straight passes to get the Black team down to the 14-yard line. Black appeared to be preparing to attempt the game-winning field goal, but a fumbled snap almost cost them a chance. Tight end Kris Kentera was able to recover the fumble for Black, which proceeded to run the clock down from that point forward. With two seconds remaining, Spear entered the game and drilled a 25-yard field goal as the clock expired.
Franklin hopes the competitive spring game is a sign of things to come this fall during camp when players battle for starting spots.
"Now, we'll get freshmen coming in and camp should be a competition," Franklin said. "It'll be a war - offense against defense, first string against second string - and we want to make it as competitive as possible. That's why we won't name the starters until two or three weeks into camp. We want all players to come in knowing they have a legit chance to start."
Patton Robinette started for Gold and connected on 11-of-15 passes for 101 yards and one touchdown. Johnny McCrary went 6-of-13 for 108 yards and a touchdown. Josh Grady was 3-of-6 for 33 yards for the Black team.
Wesley Tate led the charge on the ground with 59 yards on nine carries for Black. Gold's Tip McKenzie led all receivers with 83 yards and one touchdown on four catches. Chris Boyd had three catches for 68 yards and Jordan Matthews had six catches for 60 yards for Black.
Defense dominated the game on both sides of the ball in the early going. It wasn't until 5:46 remained in the first half before either team scored. Led by Carta-Samuels, Black drove 92 yards in 10 plays in a drive that was capped by Wesley Tate's 2-yard TD run run out of the wildcat formation. The big play of the drive was a 37-yard pass from Carta-Samuels to Jonathan Krause.
Gold opened the second half with a drive into Black's territory, but a pass from McCrary was incomplete on fourth down from the Black 35.
Black immediately took advantage of the defensive stop by driving down the field and scoring on a 13-yard pass from Carta-Samuels to Matthews. The drive went eight plays for 65 yards.
Gold answered with a long drive of their own that resulted in a touchdown when Patton Robinette connected with a wide open Jerron Seymour in the end zone for a touchdown after a play-action fake. The touchdown cut Black's lead to 14-7.
Gold was not done yet. This time, the defense got in on the act as safety Jahmel McIntosh intercepted quarterback Josh Grady at the Gold team's 40-yard line. Gold answered immediately with a 17-yard carry by Tyler Anders. After two more carries by Anders for a total of five yards, McCrary connected with McKenzie for a 49-yard strike. The officials appeared very close to whistling the play dead as Black's defenders pressured McCrary, but the touchdown stood and a two-point conversation followed.
Black's defense held gold to 213 yards, including just four on the ground. Gold's defense surrendered 277 yards. The Black team was led by Vince Taylor, who dominated the line in the first half and finished with four tackles, including 2.5 for a loss and one sack. Gold's defense was paced by Kellen Williams' eight tackles. Darien Bryant had 2.5 sacks and five total tackles.
Saturday's game was played under sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 60s.
The game was much more competitive than last year when Black won the Spring Game, 33-0.