PASADENA, Calif. — Congratulations to the University of Alabama for winning the 2010 BCS national championship.*
Yes, that’s an asterisk. If there was ever a title winner that deserved one, it’s Alabama. Go ahead and stomp your feet and cry and pout ‘Bama Nation (the death threats start in three, two, one …) but it’s true.
Alabama had this game gift-wrapped when arguably the best quarterback in college football was lost to a shoulder injury just five plays into the contest. It was a chaotic piece of fate tied together with a nice little bow for the Crimson Tide. Gifts after Christmas are always nice.
The final 37-21 score is highly deceiving. The game was much closer and there’s no question if Colt McCoy had played, this contest would’ve featured a completely different texture. If he’d been able to finish, the Longhorns might’ve won by 10 points.
Alabama won the game but McCoy’s broken shoulder is the co-champion. After that stunning injury, all the Crimson Tide had to do was stand over a half-dead body and wait for it to expire.
“It certainly changed the game,” said Nick Saban of the hit on McCoy.
“After Colt got hurt, we were obviously limited in what we could do,” Mack Brown said.
The Texas coach added even more to Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, explaining the Longhorns would’ve easily beaten Alabama with a healthy McCoy. Brown is right. McCoy said on several different occasions in interviews after the game that the Longhorns were about to dominate and would have had he not been injured. He’s right, too.
These aren’t Texas coaches and players being bad losers. This is the reality of the game.
We’ll just never know how good this Alabama team truly is. We’ll never, ever know because of McCoy’s absence. Indeed, it’s possible there’s never been a luckier championship team since the BCS format was adopted.
For all practical purposes after McCoy went down, the contest was basically over. McCoy’s replacement, Garret Gilbert, would go on to complete 1 of 10 passes for -2 yards in the first half. It’s not Gilbert’s fault. Just a short time ago, Gilbert’s biggest concern was what color he should wear to his high school prom. One busted McCoy shoulder later and he’s facing Saban’s defense.
Congratulate Alabama? I guess. If we must.
Winning is winning, some will say, and that’s true. Alabama’s victory still feels asterisked because they didn’t get the Longhorns’ best. Instead they got some sort of faux carbon copy.
Injuries are a part of the sport but when the starting quarterback, the most important player on the Texas team, is lost so early, it completely throws off the competitive balance of the contest. There’s no way to truly tell which is the better team.
Alabama’s defense was the difference maker but much of the rest of the Crimson Tide team was unspectacular even with McCoy’s absence. Alabama’s quarterback, Greg McElroy, was a non-factor, throwing for 58 yards. Running back Mark Ingram was solid but not eye popping and missed a chunk of the game with his own injury. The Alabama defense was very good but it didn’t face McCoy, and Gilbert completed just 15 of 40 passes and threw four interceptions. The Alabama special teams unit was a disaster.
Early on, the Longhorns had Alabama discombobulated. Saban tried a disastrous fake punt that failed. As the offense became bogged down, some Alabama players started to argue among themselves. One Crimson Tide player had to step between fellow teammates James Carpenter and Mike Johnson who were yelling at each other after a busted play. Wide receiver Marquis Maze had words for McElroy (and others) after another moment of miscommunication.
This was also not one of Saban’s better days. He made some — ahem — curious calls. The fake kick was one and Saban early in the game changed the Alabama offense to a more wide open style instead of emphasizing Ingram. Later in the game, Saban tried a long kick, up 24-13, instead of pinning Texas deep in its own territory.
Then Gilbert actually started moving the ball (slightly) late in the game. Here was a freshman figuring out Saban even if that moment was fleeting.
Saban has won two titles at two different schools. He’s likely moved past Urban Meyer as the best coach in college football right now, even if his coaching performance against the Longhorns wasn’t exactly Bear Bryant-ish.
He deserves credit for that and Saban will get it in the coming months. This won’t be the last time we hear from Saban or his team. The Crimson Tide will be a force for some time as long as Saban stays.
He’ll first be remembered for bringing glory back to Alabama by winning another Crimson Tide national championship.*