Friday, January 8, 2010
Alabama gets it done one last time
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
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.
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.’ ”