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BCS National Championship Game: Tide and true

In the end, it’s Alabama’s defense that decides the national championship

Posted: January 7, 2010 11:01 p.m.
Updated: January 8, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban holds up the championship trophy with Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram, right, after beating Texas 37-21 in the BCS National Championship game Thursday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

PASADENA — Not this time, Texas.

On the same field where the Longhorns won the national championship with a heroic final drive by Vince Young four years ago, Texas seemed poised to do it again, with the most unlikely of circumstances.

But No. 1 Alabama looked to what brought it to the dance — a steadfast defense — and the Crimson Tide defeated No. 2 Texas 37-21 Thursday at the Rose Bowl in the BCS National Championship Game.

All-business Alabama forced five Texas turnovers, the last one coming with the Longhorns poised to complete their comeback.

“I am proud of our players and the way they have bought in,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “Everyone made a contribution and they are a great team.”

With Colt McCoy, the all-time winningest quarterback in college football, on the sideline after being knocked out of the game on Texas’ first drive, true freshman Garrett Gilbert struggled mightily for three quarters. But touchdown passes to All-American wide receiver Jordan Shipley of 44 and 28 yards, respectively, helped Gilbert and the Longhorns cut a 24-6 halftime lead to 24-21 midway through the fourth quarter.

With three minutes left in the game, Texas got the ball back on its own 7-yard line.

But on second down, Alabama’s Eryk Anders blindsided Gilbert, causing a fumble. Crimson Tide linebacker Courtney Upshaw recovered on the Texas 3-yard line.

Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram later punched it in from a yard out to give Alabama a 31-21 cushion.

Ingram gained 116 yards on 22 carries, scoring two touchdowns in the game.

Gilbert threw his fourth interception of the game with 1:48 to play.

That led to a 2-yard touchdown run by Trent Richardson to set the score at 37-21.

Alabama was built on defense and running the ball this season and it stayed true to its game Thursday.

While the defense punished Gilbert early, the tandem of Ingram and Richardson did the same to the Longhorns’ defense.

Richardson ran for 109 yards on 19 carries and also scored two touchdowns.

It was in the second and fourth quarters when Alabama did most of its damage.

Alabama outscored Texas 24-0 in the second quarter and forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter.

But the injury to McCoy changed the game early.

Just three minutes into the contest, McCoy ran into a scrum of defenders and hurt his right shoulder.

Texas head coach Mack Brown said at halftime he could tell McCoy was unable to return.

“After Colt got hurt, obviously, we were limited,” Brown said. “We didn’t know if Colt would come back. It didn’t look good. (At halftime) we told Garrett to keep playing.”

McCoy’s departure led to a first half of offensive catastrophes for Texas.

Gilbert had a disastrous first half, capped off by an interception returned for a touchdown by defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, giving the Longhorns an 18-point halftime deficit.

Gilbert, the 2008 Gatorade and Parade National Player of the Year, was 1-of-10 for -4 yards in the first half. He finished 15-of-40 for 186 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions.

The only thing that kept Texas afloat early on was an aggressive defense that sacked Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy four times in the first half.

Yet Alabama’s running game kept pounding away.

Ingram capped a seven-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run in the early moments of the second quarter, giving Alabama a 7-6 lead.

The Crimson Tide piled on from there.

Richardson sliced through the middle and went 49 yards untouched to give the Tide a 14-6 lead.

Alabama’s next drive started on its own 29 after Texas was ineffective on offense.

Yet the Longhorns managed to hold Alabama to a 26-yard field goal by Leigh Tiffin.

The Crimson Tide led 17-6 with just 20 seconds left in the first half.

But with 15 seconds left and the ball on the Texas 37, Gilbert shoveled the ball to D.J. Monroe, who accidentally tipped it to Dareus.

Dareus spun and broke tackles, returning the interception 28 yards for the touchdown.

“Well (the interception) was great because it was a great change of momentum and really made the game a different game now,” Saban said.

Texas built a 6-0 lead early after intercepting a fake punt and recovering a short kickoff. Both plays led to Hunter Lawrence field goals.

While Texas’ running game sputtered, the Longhorns had to keep passing. Gilbert finally broke through late in the third quarter. After completing a 13-yard pass, he threw a line drive to Shipley down the middle of the field. The 44-yard connection resulted in a touchdown, cutting Alabama’s lead to 24-13 with 1:31 to play in the frame.

With 6:15 to play in the game, Gilbert lofted a 28-yard pass to Shipley for a touchdown.

After a two-point conversion, Texas was down 24-21.

But the Alabama defense took over late.

“We came out really flat, and it hurt us when Shipley scored that touchdown,” said Alabama senior linebacker Cory Reamer. “But we stepped it up when we needed to.”


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