NCF Nation: title game 010710

Alabama gets it done one last time

January, 8, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. – Even Nick Saban’s Gatorade shower wasn’t exactly textbook.

The players soaked more of Saban’s shirt than they did his head.

“I wish they’d do the water,” Saban said. “You know, the Gatorade is awfully sticky.”

But, hey, he wasn’t complaining. Not on this night.

[+] EnlargeEryk Anders
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images Eryk Anders forced this Garrett Gilbert fumble late in the fourth quarter, all but sealing an Alabama national championship.
In only his third season at Alabama, he’s guided the Crimson Tide back to national championship prominence, and in doing so, becomes the only coach in the AP poll era (since 1936) to win national championships at two different schools.

Saban revels in talking about the process. Well, the process for this team and for this season was all about getting it done – no matter what it looked like, how close it was or how unorthodox it was.

Alabama’s 37-21 victory over Texas on Thursday at the Rose Bowl won’t go down as a classic. The Crimson Tide knocked quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game, built a big lead at the half and still had to sweat it out in the fourth quarter.

“The thing about this team is that when a guy has a play to make and everybody else does his job, that guy always makes that play,” Alabama senior cornerback Javier Arenas said. “That’s the way it’s been all year.”

Indeed it has.

The play that sealed it Thursday night was Eryk Anders’ perfectly called and perfectly executed blitz off the edge. Texas backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert never saw him coming and coughed up the ball. Courtney Upshaw recovered at the Texas 3 with 3:02 to play, and Alabama finally put the game away.

“I didn’t think about anything but hitting him and didn’t know he fumbled until I looked up and saw Courtney Upshaw jumped on the ball,” Anders said.

At last, the Crimson Tide could exhale.

They couldn’t have started the game any worse, thanks to a couple of special teams gaffes. And then in the third quarter, they sort of fell asleep at the wheel and allowed Texas to climb back into the game.

“That’s who we are. We bend, but don’t break,” Alabama sophomore center William Vlachos said. “Our defense did a tremendous job. They made the plays when they had to make them, and we were able to run the ball when we had to. It all came together for us.

“We had a goal going into the year. Championship teams are defined by how they finish and what they accomplish.”

Junior linebacker Rolando McClain played through a nasty virus that had knocked him for a loop all week. He had two IV's before the game and one at halftime.

"I just want to go home and take another shower and go to sleep," McClain said. "That’s how weak and tired I am right now. But my team needed me. They needed me to be a leader, and I couldn’t let them see that I was sick. I couldn’t let them see that I wasn’t 100 percent. For them, I’d do anything."

And while the Alabama players expressed genuine remorse that McCoy missed almost the entire game, they weren’t buying for a second that their national championship was somehow tarnished.

Not after everything this program has been through the past few years.

“I don’t write the script. I just play it out,” said Alabama junior quarterback Greg McElroy, who was held to 58 yards passing, the lowest output in BCS National Championship Game history.

“It’s unfortunate for them, and I feel terrible for Colt. But when it comes down to it, that’s how things go sometimes. We lost one of our best players early in the season in Dont’a Hightower to a torn ACL. Sometimes terrible things happen in this game.

“But on my ring, it’s not going to say, ‘Beat Texas without Colt.’ It’s going to say, ‘National champions.’ ”


Texas' rush defense improves after halftime

January, 8, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- The wear and tear was noticeable on their faces. Tired Texas players like Lamarr Houston and Roddrick Muckelroy showed the effects of trying to contain bruising Alabama running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson during a long night at the Rose Bowl.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images Trent Richardson's 49-yard touchdown run was part of Alabama's 205-yard rushing effort.
The Longhorns’ No. 1 national defense was gashed for a season-worst 205 rushing yards as Ingram rushed for 116 yards and Richardson added 109 in Alabama’s 37-21 victory in the Citi BCS National Championship game.

But despite those numbers, Texas made adjustments in the second half and the defense was one of the key reasons the Longhorns had a chance to win. Texas allowed only 57 rushing yards after the break, and continually came up with the key plays that were missing in the first half.

"The defense was out there a lot with (quarterback) Colt McCoy being gone,” Houston said. “We were playing tough and played through a lot of adversity all night long. And we were right there.”

The Longhorns’ defense came up with three, three-and-out possessions to start the second half, and Alabama's only two scores of the second half came off late turnovers. The Texas defense gave the Longhorns a chance to pull back into the game when the offense finally started clicking behind freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert.

“We did all we could do to keep the game close,” Muckelroy said. “The defense stepped up and made some plays. They got us early, but in the end, about four plays killed us.”

Richardson’s 49-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter sliced through the middle of the Texas defense. It was one of four rushing touchdowns the Longhorns allowed Thursday night after giving up five rushing TDs in the 13 previous games.

“It was disappointing they got to us like that,” Houston said. “But we bounced back and did what we could to make adjustments to get back in the game.”

It was the second-most rushing yards against a Texas defense since Will Muschamp arrived last season. Only Oklahoma State's 217-yard effort last season surpassed the title game.

While Texas struggled containing the running game, Muschamp cooked up a pressure-heavy defensive front that sacked Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy five times.

The ringleader of the Texas pass rush was Sergio Kindle, who had his best game of the season with eight tackles, 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses.

“Our game plan was to get pressure on their quarterback,” Kindle said. “We thought their lineman were good in run blocking but might have slip-ups in pass coverage. We tried to get speed off the edge and middle. And those plays started coming for us as the game went on.”

But there weren’t enough of those big plays for the Longhorns to overcome the way the Tide won the battle in the trenches, using a methodical offensive philosophy.

“I’m not disappointed at all,” Houston said. “I’m proud of the team and our players for stepping up and almost winning this game. It was a good effort, but in the end it just wasn’t good enough.”video

Ingram overcomes cramps, Heisman jinx

January, 8, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. – So much for the Heisman jinx.

Of course, Mark Ingram never believed in jinxes, curses or black magic.

"That's for the movies," Ingram joked.

[+] EnlargeMark Ingram
Harry How/Getty Images Mark Ingram rushed for 116 yards on 22 carries and scored two touchdowns against Texas.
The Alabama sophomore running back became only the sixth player since 1950 to win the Heisman Trophy and a national championship in the same season.

Moreover, six of the past seven Heisman Trophy winners who played in the BCS National Championship Game had come out on the losing end.

Ingram bucked that trend Thursday night thanks to Alabama's 37-21 win over Texas, which is probably fitting.

Who would have believed back in August that he would have been anywhere on the Heisman Trophy radar?

“The Heisman was kind of shocking and something I never really expected coming into this year,” said Ingram, who overcame cramps and a swarming Texas defense to rush for 116 yards on 22 carries and earn Most Outstanding Offensive Player honors.

“When I won the trophy, it was a great honor to win it, but it was more than just a trophy to me. It was overcoming adversity. All throughout my life, me and my family sticking together and overcoming obstacles and people that tried to hold us back. A lot of emotion came from that.

“This national championship was more everybody. I was so happy to leave my heart out there for the team, the blood, sweat and tears.”

Ingram, who finished the season with 1,658 rushing yards, went over 100 yards in a game for the eighth time this season to set an Alabama record.

He wasn’t the only one, either.

Freshman running back Trent Richardson also rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries. Unfortunately for the rest of the SEC, it’s a duo that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

“I had Mark’s back all year long, and he had my back,” Richardson said. “I learned a lot from him. That’s the great thing about having both of us. We’re going to keep coming at a defense until we break them.”

Alabama tight end Colin Peek said the peripheral things were never a big deal to this team, whether it was the Heisman jinx, individual awards or the rankings throughout the year.

“We’ve had so many people win awards,” Peek said. “But at the end of the day, a jinx really doesn’t matter. All that matters is how much you’re going to sacrifice for the win. As a team, we were able to put so much into it, and that’s what we believed in. None of us focused on the outside things.

“We focused on what got us to this point, and that’s why we’re national champions.”


Late first-half interception dooms Texas

January, 8, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- It was the kind of game that left Texas players feeling empty, wondering if they could have beaten Alabama under some different circumstances.

Like having a healthy starting quarterback. Or without a botched shovel pass late in the first half that cost them a touchdown, a touchdown that proved to be pivotal at the end of a 37-21 loss to the Crimson Tide.

[+] EnlargeMarcell Dareus
AP Photo/Chris Carlson Alabama's Marcell Dareus (57) breaks away from Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert after intercepting a pass that he would return 28 yards for a touchdown.
“Who knows?” Texas senior defensive end Sergio Kindle said. “If Colt hadn’t gotten hurt, things might have been a little different. It’s something we’ll never know.”

The Longhorns were already in a huge hole after McCoy’s injury occurred only five plays into the game. But Alabama was able to cruise into a 24-6 halftime lead after a bizarre call. Backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert's shovel pass for D.J. Monroe was intercepted by Marcell Dareus for a 28-yard touchdown with three seconds left in the half.

Texas coach Mack Brown initially considered letting the clock run out. But the Longhorns got greedy, thinking they could hit a big play and get some points.

“We knew it would be a struggle with points and we felt that with 15 seconds left we had the safest thing,” Brown said. “We called a little shovel pass that had never been intercepted before and I certainly never had seen it intercepted for a touchdown. We were trying to run down 10 or 15 yards and then take a shot in the end zone.”

Instead Brown’s gamble backfired and gave the Crimson Tide a huge surge of momentum before the break.

“They tried to shovel pass and my first reaction was to grab the ball,” Dareus said. “Then I blanked out and all I could do was think about Mark Ingram and Javier (Arenas), and making all the moves I didn’t think I could do. I saw the lineman coming for my legs and my first reaction was to spin. I looked to my left and I saw Eryk Anders and I knew it was a touchdown. I could not wait to get into the end zone.”

Brown didn’t show the moxie Thursday that led to eight bowl victories in the past nine seasons, and a 3-0 record in BCS games. The Longhorns battled to overcome mistakes for much of the night.

But Brown said he was proud of what his team accomplished during a 17-game winning streak that stretched back to a October 2008 loss at Texas Tech.

“I told the guys they had a great run,” Brown said. “I thought they were prepared and had worked really hard. Losing is tough. We’re proud to be in the national championship game, and it’s still equally hard to lose it.”


PASADENA, Calif. -- No. 1 Alabama won its first college football national championship since 1992, beating No. 2 Texas 37-21 in the Citi BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl on Thursday night.

Here’s how the game was played:

How the game was won: Alabama used its stingy defense and explosive running game to overcome a couple of mind-boggling mistakes on special teams in the game’s opening moments, then held on for dear life in the fourth quarter.

After Texas quarterback Colt McCoy injured his right shoulder after only five plays and never returned, Alabama took control of the game in the first half with its running attack and defense. The Tide carried an 18-point lead into halftime, but played so poorly in the second half that the Longhorns nearly came all the way back.

Texas freshman Garrett Gilbert threw two touchdowns to Jordan Shipley and nearly led the Longhorns to one of the most improbable comebacks in recent college football history. The Crimson Tide didn’t put Texas away for good until linebacker Eryk Anders hit Gilbert from behind, forcing a fumble that Courtney Upshaw recovered at the Longhorns’ 3-yard line with 3:07 to play. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram scored a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:01 left to put Alabama ahead, 31-21.

Turning point: Alabama’s defense knocked McCoy out of the game on defensive end Marcell Dareus’ jarring tackle with 10:54 to play in the first quarter. McCoy injured his right shoulder and never returned. Gilbert, who had attempted only 26 passes in nine games, seemed overwhelmed during the first three quarters, but finally found his rhythm late in the game.

Player of the game: Dareus, a sophomore from Huffman, Ala., turned in the game’s two biggest plays. Along with knocking McCoy out of the game on a clean hit, Dareus returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown to give the Crimson Tide a 24-6 lead with 15 seconds to go in the first half. Trailing 17-6 with 29 seconds left, the Longhorns were backed up and inexplicably used a timeout before Gilbert’s shovel pass was bobbled by D.J. Monroe and picked off by Dareus.

Unsung hero of the game: Texas defensive end Sergio Kindle was a monster in his final college game, finishing with 8 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He rattled Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy for most of the night. McElroy looked uncomfortable from the start, and Alabama’s celebrated offensive line wasn’t able to provide him with much protection.

Best call: Trailing 6-0 late in the first quarter, Alabama finally decided to get Ingram involved in its offense. Starting at the Bama 43, Ingram carried the ball on five of seven plays in the touchdown drive. After the Tide reached the Texas 12, he carried three consecutive times and walked into the end zone on first-and-goal from the 2.

Second guessing I: In the early moments, Alabama coach Nick Saban gambled and lost. On the opening possession, the Crimson Tide attempted a fake punt -- from their 20-yard line. Punter P.J. Fitzgerald’s pass was intercepted by safety Blake Gideon, setting up a Texas field goal (after the Longhorns failed to score on three plays from inside the Bama 5). Alabama failed to cover the ensuing kickoff, and Texas recovered at the Tide’s 30. But the Longhorns were again unable to score a touchdown, and they settled for another field goal and 6-0 lead.

Second guessing II: Texas’ decision to call a timeout with 15 seconds left in the half will be debated in the Lone Star State for a long time. The Longhorns were backed up at their 37-yard line and had an inexperienced quarterback on the field. After the timeout, Dareus intercepted the pass and returned it for a touchdown to give the Tide an 18-point lead at the half.

What it means: An SEC team (and third different one) won a BCS national championship for the fourth consecutive season. By beating the Longhorns, Alabama replaces Florida as the SEC’s hot program and could very well start the 2010 season ranked No. 1 in many polls. Saban also cements his place among the game’s greatest coaches, after leading two schools to BCS titles (he also led LSU to the 2003 championship).


Critical late turnovers cost Texas

January, 8, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- After overcoming obstacles throughout the game, Texas' late hope was undone by a pair of critical late mistakes by freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert.

Alabama got a clinching 1-yard touchdown by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram with 2:01 left to ice the Tide's 37-21 victory.

The Crimson Tide took advantage of a short field after a blindside sack by linebacker Eryk Anders. The fumble was recovered by Courtney Upshaw at the Texas 3.

On the ensuing drive, Javier Arenas returned an interception to the Texas 27 that led to a 2-yard TD run by Trent Richardson with 47 seconds left.

And Tyrone King produced the final interception with a pick at the Alabam 31 with 26 seconds left.

Those two late scores make the final margin of victory for the Crimson Tide a little misleading.

The Longhorns had a chance to take the lead with 3 minutes left before the sack on Gilbert.

Before the late struggles, Gilbert had shown promise and moxie. But in the end, he couldn't overcome those late miscues so deep in his own territory in the end.

Finally, the blitz gets there

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Alabama's blitzes had been a step late the whole second half.

But senior linebacker Eryk Anders changed that when he came barreling in on Garrett Gilbert's blindside and knocked the ball loose. Courtney Upshaw recovered for the Crimson Tide inside the Texas 5.

A couple of different times, Texas had burned Alabama when the Crimson Tide were blitzing, but they dialed it up when they needed something to happen, and Gilbert never saw Anders coming.

Gilbert pulls Longhorns back into game

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- We're seeing the rapid development of Garrett Gilbert over the matter of one game.

Gilbert is standing resolute in the face of a blitzing Alabama defense, pulling Texas back within 24-21 with 6:15 left.

Despite facing constant pressure on the last drive, Gilbert marched the Longhorns 65 yards on nine plays on their most recent drive, capped by a 28-yard pass to Jordan Shipley.

Gilbert found Shipley behind backup safety Robbie Green on the scoring play. Shipley produced five receptions for 61 yards on that drive.

Colt McCoy came off the Texas bench to celebrate that scoring pumping his left shoulder high in the air after the touchdown.

The Longhorns' defense has played masterfully in the second half. They need another stop here.

Brand new game for Tide

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Make no mistake. The pressure's on Alabama now.

The Crimson Tide played an uninspired third quarter, and in doing so, allowed Texas to hang around.

But with the Longhorns driving the length of the field for the touchdown and adding the two-point conversion to pull within 24-21, we now find out what Alabama's made of.

Brand new ballgame.

It's time for the offense to show some signs of life.

And where is Julio Jones?

Longhorns gaining confidence, but is it too late?

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert orchestrated a scoring drive, pulling Texas within 24-13 after three quarters.

You can see the Longhorns gaining confidence. Gilbert fired a 44-yard TD pass to Jordan Shipley to account for the only points since the break.

Alabama didn't produce a first down in the third quarter as the Longhorns outgained the Tide, 116-3.

Texas defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle has had a monster game with seven tackles, 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses.

The Longhorns have Alabama pinned deep in its own territory. They need a big play to capitalize.

Alabama's offense goes cold

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Nick Saban can't be pleased with the third quarter.

His Alabama team had this game well in hand. But instead of going for the throat and putting Texas away, the Crimson Tide went belly-up on offense and let the Longhorns back in the game.

Alabama's passing game has been non-existent all game, but the running game didn't show up in the third quarter.

It still has the feel of an Alabama win. But 24-13 becomes a lot more precarious if the Crimson Tide can't get it going again offensively in the fourth quarter.

McCoy out for game with separated right shoulder

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- The Texas radio network is saying that Colt McCoy's injury is a separated right shoulder.

He's returned to his team's bench, where he's still wearing his pads.

Even though he's out for the game, he's still involved in the offense. He was in the offensive huddle, trying to get his teammates motivated before they took the field on that last possession.

But the rest of tonight's game is about Garrett Gilbert as he tries to build confidence in what will undoubtedly be his team heading into next season.

Saban made right decision

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. – Alabama was probably already on its way to winning the game there late in the second quarter.

But two coaching decisions likely ensured it.

Alabama's Nick Saban made the right call and Texas’ Mack Brown the wrong call.

Facing fourth-and-1 at the Texas 9, Saban elected to take the points and make it a two-score game, knowing full well that the Longhorns would have to play with backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert the rest of the way.

On the ensuing possession, with only 15 seconds left in the half, the Longhorns didn't take a knee. Instead, they tried a shovel pass that ended up in the hands of Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus, and the big man showed a few moves on his way to a 28-yard touchdown.

At 24-6, this game looks all but over.

First-half analysis: Alabama 24, Texas 6

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Here's a look at why Alabama has cruised to a commanding 24-6 halftime lead.

Turning point: The game turned on Texas’ fifth play from scrimmage when quarterback Colt McCoy went down with an injury to his right shoulder. McCoy appeared to have been pinned between center Chris Hall and defensive end Marcell Dareus when he went down. He was treated for the injury for several plays before he was taken for further evaluation in the Longhorns’ dressing room. He did not appear for the rest of the first half.

His injury forced freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert into the game for his first action. Gilbert struggled against the tough Alabama offense, directing four straight three-and-out possessions with no offensive gains of more than 6 yards on any offensive play during that span.

Stat of the half: Texas produced 26 yards in five plays with McCoy in charge of the offense, an average of 5.2 yards per snap. After his injury, the Longhorns amassed 65 yards on 35 plays, an average of 1.9 yards per snap.

Best player of the half: Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Crimson Tide. Not only did he knock out Colt McCoy early in the first quarter, but he also provided a huge 28-yard interception return on a botched shovel pass with 3 seconds left to give Alabama a comfortable 24-6 lead at the break.

Best call: Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy took advantage of Texas blitzing on the edge early in the second quarter. Freshman running back Trent Richardson took advantage of the huge seam to run untouched through the middle of the Longhorn defense for a 48-yard touchdown run.

What Texas needs to do: Apparently without McCoy, Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis needs to open his offense up. The Longhorns aren’t going to be able to beat Alabama trying to run the ball between the tackles. They might be able to have more success with misdirection plays that might neutralize Alabama’s defensive speed. But it’s going to be tough. The Alabama defense is in a feeding frenzy after knocking McCoy out and almost knocking out Gilbert.

What Alabama needs to do: The Crimson Tide have the Longhorns on their heels -- especially if McCoy can’t come back in the second half. Constant defensive pressure on Gilbert will likely come in waves, keeping him from getting comfortable in the pocket. It’s not an easy situation for any quarterback, but particularly a freshman with as little experience as Gilbert has.

Arenas' interception kills Texas drive

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Texas' offense finally clicked under freshman Garrett Gilbert, but Javier Arenas' interception snuffed out the drive at the Alabama 25.

Texas got some life when D.J. Monroe raced 28 yards on a reverse. On the play before the interception, Gilbert appeared to have Malcolm Williams in the end zone, but the sophomore wide receiver couldn't make a tough catch in the end zone.

The drive should give Gilbert some confidence, although it was a tough learning experience to finish the drive as they still trail, 14-6.