Last night, the BCS National Championship Game was played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Top ranked Alabama, led by Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram, faced Texas, led by four year starter Colt McCoy. It was supposed to be the perfect matchup: two undefeated teams, from big name conferences, and the stars were a Heisman winner and a Heisman finalist. However, early in the first quarter, the dynamic of the game would change drastically, as Colt McCoy was injured on the second series of the game. He ran a quarterback draw to the left side of the offensive line and endured a fairly innocent hit. However, he went to the locker room because he could not feel his right arm, and while in the locker room was unable to throw a 7 yard pass to his father to prove he was fit to return. He simply got hit in the wrong place at the right time, and could not return to the game.
At this point freshmen Gary Gilbert entered the game at quarterback for Texas. His first drive stalled, but Texas had been in field position when he came in the game, and the Horns kicked a field goal to take a 6-0 lead. Gilbert’s luck went downhill from there. After Alabama scored a touchdown to take a 7-6 lead, Gilbert could not find the rhythm. He was uncomfortable in the pocket, could not hit receivers, and made very bad decisions when throwing the ball. His bad decisions were epitomized by his second quarter final minute shovel pass which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Alabama. This mistake wasn’t as much his fault as it was Mack Brown’s, though. Even though a pick 6 isn’t exactly what one would expect from a shovel pass, it was still an unnecessary risk with so little time left in the half. Alabama went into the half with a 24-6 lead.
Late in the third quarter, Gary Gilbert started to find some rhythm. He hit his receivers with a few short passes before connecting with leading receiver Jordan Shipley for a 44 yard touchdown pass. The Texas defense then held the Tide and talented Bama kicker Leigh Tiffin missed a 52 yard field goal. Gilbert then picked up where he left off and connected with Jordan Shipley again for a 28 yard touchdown. After a two point conversion, Texas had cut the lead to 24-21 with 6:15 remaining in the game. The Texas defense once again stopped the Tide offense, and Gilbert had a chance to engineer a game winning job with 3:14 remaining. The nation was on the edge of its seat, about to see history. A freshmen, in his first snaps after replacing the program’s all time wins leader, leads the Horns to a National Championship by erasing an 18 point deficit.
However, the storybook ending was not meant to be. After a holding penalty, Gilbert lost the ball after being hit hard by Eryk Anders from the blind side, and Alabama recovered at the 3 yard line. Alabama scored to increase the Crimson Tide lead to 31-21. Another late touchdown by Alabama notched the final tally in the 37-21 victory, ensuring Nick Saban his second career National Championship, the other one he won with LSU.
This was an important win for Alabama’s program. For the football program that other than Oklahoma and USC may be the greatest college football program of all time, a 16 year National Championship drought was unacceptable. Nick Saban, in his third year with Alabama, restored the program to prominence by bringing the program its first National Championship in 17 years, and its first Heisman Trophy Winner, Mark Ingram. Congratulations to the Tide for once again being on top.
One has to feel sympathetic towards Texas. Last year, many argued that the Longhorns deserved to be in the National Championship Game instead of Oklahoma, who the Horns had beaten in the Red River Rivalry. This year, after the team went undefeated, Texas loses its quarterback for the majority of the championship game. Colt McCoy had been waiting his entire career to play in this game. One could hear the pain in his voice last year when he talked about Oklahoma being chosen for the Championship Game over Texas, and one could hear the pain in his voice last night when Lisa Salters asked him what he felt about his injury and subsequent removal from the game. Would Texas have won the game if Colt remained in the game? Maybe and probably not. But for a kid who had been dreaming his entire career for this game, and has done so much for college football, Colt McCoy deserved 60 minutes to try to live his dream.
This should not take away from Alabama’s victory, however. The Tide was the more consistent and impressive team all year, and the Tide still scored 31 legitimate points on the Texas defense. Therefore, it wasn’t that the Texas offense struggled significantly, but instead the Alabama took control of the game early and then played conservatively to retain the lead for the remainder of the game. Congratulations to the Alabama Crimson Tide for the program’s 13th National Championship, and for a fitting and exciting conclusion to the 2009-2010 bowl season.