After perfect season, process complete for Tide

Jason Galloway

PASADENA, Calif. – Colt McCoy proved how valuable he is to the Texas Longhorns in Thursday night’s BCS National Championship game. Not with his arm, not with his legs, but with his absence.

The two-time Heisman finalist left the game on Texas’ first drive of the game with an injury to his right shoulder and spent the rest of the game like the 94,906 spectators at the Rose Bowl – watching the Longhorn offense dig itself too deep of a hole to climb out of in Alabama’s 37-21 victory.

“As much as I enjoy winning, you always hate to see a great competitor not be able to participate in a game that he’s probably worked his entire career to be a part of,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “[But] I’ve never been prouder of a ground of guys for their resiliency and their hard work and the blood, sweat and tears that they put in to accomplish what they’ve accomplished this season.”

Even with McCoy out, the early portions of the game indicated that Alabama may miss out on its 13th national title. Due to an unsuccessful fake punt deep in its own territory and an onside kick recovery, Texas was able to build a 6-0 lead off two field goals with backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert under center.

The Longhorns couldn’t manage for long, however. Gilbert finished the first half 1-for-10 with minus-4 yards and two interceptions, and that Longhorn lead quickly became a 24-6 Crimson Tide advantage at halftime.

“We didn’t start out the game very well,” Saban said. “[McCoy’s injury] sort of made them change their offense and they got us a little off balance on defense, because they have a completely different plan for what they are doing.”

After experimenting with the pass in the first quarter, which led to three sacks on quarterback Greg McElroy, Alabama pounded through the nation’s No. 1 rushing defense in the second quarter.

Running back Mark Ingram capped a 7-play, 57-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run before a minute had ticked off in the second quarter, and Trent Richardson broke free on a counter play for a 49-yard score two possessions later.

With 0:15 left until halftime, Texas head coach Mack Brown called a timeout from the Longhorns’ own 37-yard line. The ensuing shuffle pass was batted around before being intercepted by sophomore Marcell Dareus, who returned it 28 yards for a touchdown, making the score 24-6 with just three second remaining in the half.

“It got batted around, and my first reaction was to grab the ball,” Dareus said. “After I got the ball, I was thinking about Mark Ingram and Javier [Arenas] highlights.”

With a spark from wide receiver Jordan Shipley, Gilbert began to move the Longhorns back in to the game late in the second half. With 1:31 left in the third quarter, Gilbert found Shipley over the middle for a 44-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 24-13. The two connected again down the far sideline for a 28-yard score with 6:15 remaining in the game to make the score 24-21 after a successful two-point conversion.

“It felt like we had won the game at halftime,” Saban said. “I’m pleased with the way we were able to finish after [they came back].”

Alabama finished the game in a big way. With less than three minutes left, linebacker Eryk Anders knocked the ball loose from Gilbert deep in his own territory, and Courtney Upshaw recovered on the 3-yard line. Three plays later, Ingram punched it in form a yard out for his second touchdown of the game to extend the Tide’s lead to 31-21.

After a Javier Arenas interception on the ensuing drive, Richardson scored his second touchdown with just 0:47 remaining to make the final score 37-21.

The victory gave Alabama its 13th national championship in school history and its first since the 1992 season.