I still think about the 2010 BCS National Championship: Texas vs. Alabama. The Longhorns came in as underdogs, but the game started well for them. They held Alabama to a three-and-out, got the ball back, and drove down to Alabama’s red zone. Then UT quarterback Colt McCoy injured his shoulder after a tackle from Marcell Dareus. True freshman Garrett Gilbert took over for McCoy.
The drop-off from McCoy to Gilbert was steep, but Texas was able to stay in the game. With 3:04 left in the fourth quarter, the Longhorns were down only 21-24 with a chance to win it all. I thought the Horns would drive down the field and lift the crystal football. Instead, Gilbert fumbled, and Alabama recovered and scored a touchdown.
Even though the final score was 21-37 due to a Gilbert interception on the Longhorns’ next drive, the game was close. If Texas still had McCoy, they almost certainly would have won. To make matters more painful, the Texas football program imploded afterwards and still has not reached the same heights as those late 2000’s teams. On the other hand, the 2009 title was the first of Nick Saban’s Alabama dynasty.
For years, I have held on to the question, “What if Colt McCoy hadn’t been injured?” But that question makes Alabama’s most recent national championship all the more painful.
Down 13-0 at halftime, Nick Saban benched his starting quarterback Jalen Hurts (whom had a 25-2 starting record) for true freshman Tua Tagovailoa. The Crimson Tide ended up winning.
Maybe Tua Tagovailoa is a future NFL superstar. Maybe Jalen Hurts is as terrible as some Alabama fans think he is. But no team is built around the backup QB, and Tagovailoa certainly did not yet have the practice reps necessary for success at the highest level of college football. Yet putting Tagovailoa in still worked out.
So my excuses for Texas losing in 2010 are not valid. Even though he has been stuck on practice squads for years, Garrett Gilbert is still an NFL quarterback. He had way more success at SMU than the coaches at Texas were ever able to get out of him. The Longhorns still could have won the 2010 BCS National Championship with Gilbert. You need to find a way to win regardless of the circumstances. Saban did.
For the longest time, I thought Alabama’s 2009 national championship should come with an asterisk. On Wikipedia, it would say, “Won against scrub quarterback Garrett Gilbert”. But the truth is the better team won that day. Ball don’t lie.