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BCS Championship preview: Texas vs. Alabama Thursday

Posted: January 4, 2010 1:56 p.m.
Updated: January 4, 2010 1:56 p.m.
 
NEWPORT BEACH (AP) - Here's the strangest part of the fallout from the Texas offensive line giving up nine sacks in the Big 12 title game: There wasn't any.

No excruciating film session. No chewing out by coaches. Not even a single discouraging word from All-American quarterback Colt McCoy, whose blockers couldn't stop Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the Nebraska defensive line.

Everyone involved says those things would've been a waste of time.

After all, the Longhorns still found a way to beat the Cornhuskers. And it's not like this group of three seniors and two juniors needed to be told they had an awful game. They know it, and are thrilled to have a chance to make up for it against Terrence Cody and No. 1 Alabama in the BCS title game Thursday night.

"We did what we always do: go over corrections, fix the things that need to be fixed and now we're just working to improve and get better," left tackle Adam Ulatoski said. "We've moved on."

The more they get away from the Big 12 championship - and the closer they get to the biggest game of the year - the easier it is for the Texas linemen to forget that lousy night.

It also helps knowing what an aberration it was.

The Longhorns allowed less than two sacks per game this season and never more than four until the Big 12 championship. Going into that game, McCoy's previous nine sacks came over a span of five games.

Still, there's reason for Texas to be concerned.

The Cornhuskers had the best defense the Longhorns had faced since Oklahoma, and the Sooners were the ones who sacked McCoy four times. Now Texas is going against a Crimson Tide defense that many Longhorns consider the best they've ever seen.

Cody and the rest of the front seven are ferocious, plus the defensive backs are so good that McCoy is going to need all the time he can get to find open receivers.

Bottom line: Don't be surprised if the winner of the game-within-the-game matchup of the Texas OL and Alabama DL becomes the national champion.

"That's where the game's going to be won or lost," McCoy said. "We can't play the way that we did (against Nebraska) and expect to win. We've got a lot of work to do, and we'll have to rise up and compete and play our best."

The Longhorns went through some back-to-basics practices before delving into their game plan for slowing the Crimson Tide. Many of their workouts were mini-scrimmages, with the first team lines challenging each other.

That was about as good a preparation as Texas' linemen could get because their defensive front is set up similar to Alabama's.
"That's been huge for us," center Chris Hall said.

It also helps that the Crimson Tide have a different defensive philosophy from the Cornhuskers.

In layman's terms, Nebraska players figure out where a play is going, then get there quickly, while Alabama defenders just try mauling their way into the backfield, intent on stifling any type of play in any direction.

Suh was perfect for the Cornhuskers' scheme because he was smart enough to know what was coming, fast enough to get there and big enough to cause problems. Cody is an equally good fit for the Tide's scheme because he's so big and strong that he takes up several blockers. Sometimes, he still find a way to tackle a quarterback or running back; other times, the attention he draws unleashes the guys around him to make a big hit.

Cody knows he won't dominate the way Suh did, but he learned some things about Texas by watching the Nebraska game.
"They hate penetration," Cody said. "That's what kind of disrupts everything they do, because they do a lot of things on the line of scrimmage."

McCoy has won a major-college record 45 games, most of them behind these linemen.

Ulatoski, Hall and left guard Charlie Tanner are seniors finishing their third straight year as starters. Right tackle Kyle Hix and right guard Michael Huey are juniors who became starters last season. They've combined for 145 starts.

McCoy often eats with the big guys, including several times after he returned to campus following the Nebraska game. He never even brought up the nine-sack night. The bond between the quarterback and linemen is further evidenced by the cheesy nicknames they have for each other.

They really are about cheese.

Ulatoski said he started it by calling McCoy "Velveeta" as a jab at the quarterback's ever-present smile. The 24-year-old Ulatoski is
"Aged Cheddar." Hall is "Swiss" because he's so religious (holy). Hicks' red hair earned him "Muenster," and Tanner is "Cheesecake" because he's so sweet to his girlfriend.

"Colt's got a lot of love for us," Tanner said. "As an offensive lineman, (nine sacks) is the last thing you want. It hurts. But you look back and say we're going to work and do our best to do what we can for this game."

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