Alabama Beats Texas for National Championship
The Alabama Crimson Tide won its 13th* college football national championship tonight by beating the Texas Longhorns 37-21.
For most of the game, it didn’t look like they wanted to.
The Tide won the opening coin toss and, uncharacteristically, chose to start with its shaky offense rather than its best-in-the-nation defense. It promptly ran 3 ugly plays and then, inexplicably, a fake punt which they botched in spectacular fashion.
Texas looked to get an easy 7 points but — in the key play of the game — its Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback, Colt McCoy, was injured on a freak play where he didn’t even go down.
True freshman Garrett Gilbert was thrown to the wolves and the drive stalled with a field goal.
Alabama then apparently thought the ensuing kickoff was a punt and didn’t touch the live ball, giving it right back to the Longhorns. The drive once again stalled, though, and they settled for 3.
Bama then scored two touchdowns on offense, first on a long, grind-it-out drive featuring their Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram, and then on a 49-yard run by his understudy, Trent Richardson.
After some mediocre play back-and-forth, it appeared that Texas was content to go into the half down 6-17. Instead, they decided to have their shaky frosh QB toss a shovel pass from deep on his side of the field, got it picked off, and gave Bama a free TD to end the half 24-6. Amusingly, defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, who made the lick that took McCoy out of the game, did the honors.
But Alabama coach Nick Saban decided to try to run out the entire second half with an incredibly cautious offense. It nearly worked but Gilbert suddenly found his game and Texas scored two quick touchdowns to bring it to 21-24 (they made a 2-point conversion) with 7 minutes left.
Finally, the Bama D made a huge play, stripping the ball near the goal line. Three plays later, Ingram went in for a touchdown and put the game away. A desperation pass from Gilbert was soon picked off in garbage time, padding the Tide’s score with a free touchdown.
Stacy McCain had the live blog. Here’s the ESPN scoring summary:
All-and-all, a rather bittersweet win, both because McCoy’s injury provides a huge What If? and because Alabama really didn’t play very well most of the game.
As with Florida’s Tim Tebow after the SEC Championship game, McCoy was both understandably emotional and superbly gracious.
The game would have gone much differently had he been healthy. My strong guess is that both teams would have played much better and, certainly, the outcome would be more satisfying. I’m happy to have Alabama hoist another trophy, of course, and genuinely think they’re the best team in college football this year. But I’d have much preferred to see them beat an intact Texas team and to play a more characteristic ballgame.
UPDATE: It seems that Texas wasn’t the only team playing with an injured QB. McElroy has cracked ribs sustained the SEC Championship game a month ago and was playing in a flak jacket and under local anesthetic. No wonder the passing game looked so out of sync.
*The number is in dispute. The NCAA counts 8 “consensus” titles and as many as 18 total; the Capstone counts 13, including an incredibly dubious 1941 title. Until the BCS started in 1999, there arguably was no such thing as a championship in the highest level of college football. Several of Alabama’s early championships, including their 1924 and 1925 undefeated seasons capped by Rose Bowl wins, were “awarded” years after the fact. And they both won and lost championships in the years when the polls were voted upon before the bowl games.