Hanging onto a precarious three-point
lead and with momentum on the other side, linebacker Eryk Anders made
sure the championship wouldn’t slip away.
Anders forced a fumble on his
blindside sack of Texas backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert with 3:02
left Thursday night to help the top-ranked Crimson Tide hold on for a
37-21 victory in the BCS title game — a win that figured to be much
easier when Alabama knocked out Colt McCoy early in the first quarter.
With McCoy on the sideline nursing a
shoulder injury, the Tide rolled to a 24-6 lead at halftime, the final
touchdown coming when lineman Marcell Dareus picked off a shovel pass
and returned it 28 yards for the score late in the second quarter.
The second half figured to be a
laugher with Gilbert in the game — a freshman who was Texas’
“quarterback of the future” but had thrown only 26 college passes.
The kid almost did it, though.
He threw two touchdown passes to
All-American Jordan Shipley to trim the deficit to 24-21 with 6:15
left, and after an Alabama punt, he had the ball at the 7-yard line, 93
yards away from one of the most improbable comeback stories in the
history of the game.
But after an Alabama holding penalty
moved the ball to the 17, Gilbert dropped back to pass and got rocked
by Anders, a senior who plays in the shadow of All-Americans Terrence
Cody and Rolando McClain. The ball went flying and Courtney Upshaw
Three plays later, Heisman Trophy
winner Mark Ingram surged into the end zone from the 1 for the 10-point
lead. A few minutes later, after Gilbert’s third interception of the
night, Trent Richardson scored his second touchdown to make it 37-21.
Then the party began. Glory came
back to one of the country’s most storied programs, the football
factory that Bear Bryant built, courtesy of Nick Saban, who resurrected
this team in the short span of three seasons.