SEC: 2010 BCS national title game Pasadena

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.’ ”


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.”


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.

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?

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.

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.

Bama's Richardson takes his turn

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. – The beauty of this Alabama offense is that it hasn't had to rely on just one guy.

Quarterback Greg McElroy hasn’t played that well to this point, and the Crimson Tide haven’t had much of a passing game.

But Mark Ingram gets them started on their way to their first touchdown, and then freshman Trent Richardson bolts up the middle untouched for a 49-yard touchdown run.

As good as Ingram is, Richardson might be even more explosive. And as his run demonstrated, when he breaks into the open, few people are going to catch him.

The best part for Alabama (and scary part for everybody else) is that the Ingram-Richardson duo is going to be around for a while.

Alabama giving up sacks in bunches

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- So much for not giving up negative plays.

Alabama had allowed just 15 sacks in 13 games coming into Thursday night's game, including only one against Florida in the SEC championship game.

But midway through the second quarter, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy has already been sacked four times and pressued several other times. A couple of times, he hasn't had a chance. But he also appears to be holding onto the ball too long and has taken some big hits.

Tide turns to Ingram

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Finally, a Mark Ingram sighting.

We didn’t see much of the Heisman Trophy winner during the first part of the first quarter. Alabama called five passes and got nothing.

Alabama started feeding Ingram to close the quarter and he delivered in his usual tackle-breaking fashion.

Watching him run through Texas defenders was another reminder of why he’s the best after-contact runner in the country.

I’d look for a lot more of Ingram as this game wears on.

Can Alabama start any worse?

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. – I can’t think of a more dysfunctional start to a game this season for Alabama than what we saw Thursday night in the Citi BCS National Championship Game.

But it didn’t turn out nearly as bad as it could have for the Crimson Tide.

Texas went up 6-0 after an inexplicable fake field goal on third-and-23 went awry for Alabama and then the Crimson Tide failed to get on a bloop kick a few minutes later.

The Longhorns took over at the 37 and then the 30, but Alabama kept them out of the end zone both times.

Still, Alabama looks jittery.

Linebacker Rolando McClain was hit with a personal foul penalty, and there was also confusion with getting everybody off the field before Texas’ second field goal. Finally, Marcell Dareus came racing off at the last minute, and Alabama coach Nick Saban came over and barked at defensive line coach Bo Davis.

Offensively, Alabama hasn't been able to protect quarterback Greg McElroy, who's been chased out of the pocket a couple of different times.

Pendry's line has come through for Tide

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- There can't be enough written or said about the development of Alabama's offensive line this season.

Rarely at this level of football do you see an offensive line lose three starters, including two All-Americans, and come back the next season and put up better offensive numbers across the board.

And then do it with a first-year starting quarterback.

There's a lot of praise to go around, but the job Alabama offensive line coach Joe Pendry has done with this group has been off-the-charts good.

An NFL veteran with offensive coordinator experience, Pendry is winding down a superb coaching career and having the time of his life. He told me earlier this week that coming back to college after all those years in the pros has been so refreshing for him.

He loves the teaching part of the game, getting players when they're still raw and molding them into a unit.

"I knew we had a lot of smart, tough guys," Pendry said about this group. "How long it would take them to come and how long it would take them to mesh together as a unit … I really didn’t know.

"They’ve really played together well. That’s the thing that sticks out about this group."

Something to keep an eye on tonight is whether or not the Crimson Tide can continue to play as mistake-free on offense as they have for most of this season. They've committed just 10 turnovers in 13 games and have gone eight-and-a-half games without a holding penalty on offense.

It's the reason you never see Alabama facing first-and-20 or second-and-15. It's been a team that's always in manageable down-and-distance situations.

"We work on it," Pendry said. "It’s hard enough to gain 5 yards when you’re doing it perfectly against good competition. If you lose 5 yards before it ever starts, then you have to gain 10 to get it back."

Faith pays off for Alabama fans

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- There's nothing like the faith of a college football fan, in particular an Alabama football fan.

Just ask Roy Dixon Jr., Shawn Taylor and Jimmy Messick, three die-hard Alabama fans from Phenix City, Ala.

They decided to drive all the way out to California on the leap of faith that they might be able to buy tickets for the Citi BCS National Championship Game out here. Keep in mind that some of these tickets are going for as much as $1,000 apiece.

Dixon and Taylor are high school football coaches, so what they could afford to pay for a ticket was limited.

As it turns out, their 2,300-mile drive wasn't for naught. Paul Finebaum told their story on his popular syndicated radio show, which can be heard all over the south, and it just so happens that former Alabama All-America defensive lineman Bob Baumhower heard about their plight.

Baumhower, a Pro Bowler with the Miami Dolphins and owner of a successful restaurant chain in Alabama, got into contact with Finebaum and overnighted four tickets to the Phenix City trio.

So they came with no tickets and now have one to spare.

There's something to be said for keeping the faith.

Saban makes his appearance

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Alabama coach Nick Saban, flanked by a couple of Alabama state troopers, just made his way across the field to do a quick interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi.

Before Saban could get to Rinaldi, former Texas star running back Ricky Williams stopped Saban, and the two exchanged handshakes and talked briefly. Williams played for Saban when Saban was coaching the Miami Dolphins.

Williams is wearing a Texas cap and hanging out with some of the players while they warm up. Texas coach Mack Brown said there would be as many as 17 former Texas players on the sideline Thursday night. Vince Young and Chris Simms were also scheduled to be here.

Welcome from Pasadena

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- I realize with all the nasty weather we're having all over the country right now (even some snow in the south) that the last thing anybody wants to hear is how gorgeous the weather is out here.

But honestly, it's absolutely ideal right now, as the press box side of the Rose Bowl is already covered in shadows.

There's not a cloud in the sky, and the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance are as striking as ever.

As picturesque settings go for a college football game, it doesn't get any better than the Rose Bowl.

And just think, the first football game here was played all the way back in 1923.

Fans are starting to file into the stadium, but the party's still raging outside the Rose Bowl, which is built on a golf course. Lots of "Sweet Home Alabama" blaring in the distance and a little "Yea Alabama" as well.

Video: Keys to title game

January, 7, 2010

SEC blogger Chris Low gives three keys for an Alabama win in the title game. Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin counters with three keys for a Texas win.