If you went to bed at halftime of last night's BCS National Championship Game between The Alabama Crimson Tide and Texas Longhorns, and then awoke to read this morning's headlines of the 37-21 Tide victory, you cheated yourself.
Your first thoughts this morning may have been how the game appears to have been precisely what many thought it would be: A blowout. But was it really?
A closer look at the game reveals a somewhat different story. One that actually shows the Longhorns from Texas, despite losing their All-Everything quarterback, Colt McCoy, on the team's first offensive possession, had and missed opportunities to win this game.
Understanding the initial shock true freshman replacement QB Garrett Gilbert was feeling on his first series, we will be kind and allow the first field goal giving Texas a 3-0 advantage.
However, when you have the ball inside Alabama's 30 yard-line twice in the first eight minutes of the ballgame, you have do more than a simple 6-0 lead.
It's Ala-freakin-bama, for crying out loud.
Moving along to the second quarter, with Alabama leading 14-6, Gilbert threw what would have been a 27-yard touchdown pass, albeit a tad high, to Texas wide receiver Malcolm Williams.
Williams, tightly covered by Alabama's Marquis Johnson, failed to make the catch, but admitted he should have caught the ball. "Still, it was a close play that I needed to make. That’s what I’m here for – to make those plays," he said.
And he is right.
Make that play, and UT is down 14-13. Instead, Gilbert throws a pick (one of four he would throw this night) on the very next play, and 'Bama drives and kicks a field goal to go up 17-6.
Do the math folks. That's a 10-point swing, again, against Ala-freakin-bama!
Another major gaffe by the 'Horns was at the end of the first half when, still trailing 17-6, in their own territory, Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis called for the true freshman to throw a shovel pass right into what could quite possibly be one of the greatest defensive lines ever assembled at the collegiate level.
“We had 15 seconds left with a timeout,” said Davis. “We said, ‘Hey, let’s run a little draw-shovel. If we pop it, we’ve got a shot to hit a long field goal.’”
Eh, what?? You had 15 seconds left, were 63 yards away, with a true freshman , playing against a defense that had been eating his lunch for the past hour and a half, and who had missed on 9 of his last 10 pass attempts.
I'll say it again, folks: It's Ala-freakin-bama...take a knee!!! At least then you go into halftime, down only by 11, regroup and come out fighting.
The result? The ball bounces off of Texas's D.J. Monroe and into the arms of Alabama's Marcell Dareus, who flat ran over Gilbert en route to a 28-yard touchdown run.
Give the kid some credit though for not allowing his O.C. to take all the blame. “Obviously,” he said, “if there is some junk up in the middle, I need to throw it into the ground. I forced it a little too much. I forced the ball in there. I needed to make a smarter play on that one.”
He's right, too. By this time he had played an entire half of football, as well as having been in nine games prior to that.
Nerves should be gone and, let's not fool ourselves here either, folks. These kids that play this game, at this level, are special for a reason. They know how to play.
Halftime: Tide 24 'Horns 6. Ouch.
Insurmountable, right? Of course it was, which is why you went to bed.
Joke's on you then because, had you stayed awake, you would have seen a Texas defense and specials teams units completely dominate Alabama for nearly the entire second half.
So dominant, and gritty, was this second-half performance by the Longhorns that, up until about the 8:00 minute mark in the fourth quarter, Alabama's offense had been limited to just 3 total yards in the second half, which allowed Texas to pull to within 24-21.
Momentum had clearly shifted to the Longhorns, and the sea of burnt orange inside the Rose Bowl was swaying.
But again, and again, Texas failed to capitalize on its opportunities throughout the second half.
Dropped passes, missed tackles and failing to capitalize on Alabama turnovers throughout the entire evening doomed the Longhorns.
As I said, they had their chances. That is, up until the 3:14 mark of the fourth quarter.
Trailing 24-21 and just getting the ball back again, a much maligned offensive line that, up to that point had played remarkably well, gave up its first sack.
Alabama linebacker Eryk Anders delivered a crushing blindside blow to Gilbert, forcing a fumble that 'Bama recovered at the Texas 3.
Seconds later, Heisman winner Mark Ingram—and there is a reason he won the Heisman Trophy, by the way—delivered the game clinching touchdown for his Crimson Tide teammates, and the comeback was quashed.
So, had you stayed awake, you would have watched an epic battle between two historic and deserving teams.
You would have seen a Longhorns team outgain Alabama 276-263, and seen a young Garrett Gilbert grow up in 30 minutes, throwing for 190 yards in the second half.
Yes. Alabama is the best team in the country, which is why Texas needed a perfect performance to win.
It didn't give one.
However, what I will take away from this game is not so much how the Longhorns could have won with Colt McCoy. Rather, it is how I believe the Longhorns should have won, despite his absence.