In 2007, you could say that "The Stars Fell On Alabama" when they landed coaching superstar Nick Saban. By 2009, the Tuscaloosa faithful were singing "Sweet Home Alabama."
After Gene Stallings retired, Alabama football became slovenly again. Some seasons, such as 2005, saw the Tide in title contention until November, but years with high expectations usually brought losing seasons.
While the Tide's record didn't improve much during Saban's first year (6-7 to 7-6), Alabama's losses all came by only a touchdown at most. The 2008 team roared through the regular season, before collapsing against Florida and Utah.
2009 was the next step. Like Stallings, Saban's third year at the helm brought the Coaches' Trophy back to Tuscaloosa.
After winning the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff against seventh-ranked Virginia Tech, the Tide stuck to their running game. Mark Ingram, Jr., who'd set the Alabama scoring record for a freshman running back, led the Tide on the ground in tandem with freshman Trent Richardson. Combined with Greg McElroy, their Rhodes Scholar quarterback who hadn't lost a game since eighth grade, the Tide cruised through the majority of their SEC slate.
That all changed on The Third Saturday of October. It was the perfect trap game. Tennessee's coach, the boisterous Lane Kiffin, had made glorious predictions for the Volunteers' 2009 season. As of game time, Tennessee's season had been insignificant, so few took his team seriously. But Kiffin's prediction for success almost occurred.
Ingram fumbled for the first time in his career, and Greg McElroy was in a midseason slump. Leigh Tiffin, the son of legendary Alabama kicker Van Tiffin, made four field goals to keep the Tide alive. But entering the end of the fourth quarter, Tiffin's team had a precarious 12-10 lead—and Tennessee had the football in field goal range.
Practicing sound football strategy, Lane Kiffin waited until the last second to make a kick that would upset the top-ranked team nationally. But Terrence "Mount" Cody, the Tide's veteran nose tackle, blocked Tennessee's field goal to secure the Tide victory.
The '09 year wasn't only remembered for "The Block." The regular-season finale against Auburn was a game for the ages. Trailing 14-0 on the road at the end of the first quarter, the Tide regrouped and McElroy led a long, clock-draining drive that ultimately put the Tide on top 26-21.
The Tide were paired against Urban Meyer's Florida Gators for the second year in a row. And for the second year in a row, the first and second ranked teams were playing each other for the SEC Championship. Whoever lost not only missed out on the conference title, but a chance to win it all.
Alabama surprised Florida, utilizing more of a spread offense. The Gators were demolished that day, ending their 22-game win streak. To crown the perfect season, Mark Ingram became Alabama's first Heisman Trophy winner, beating out quarterbacks Tim Tebow of Florida and Colt McCoy of Texas.
As of the Heisman Presentation, the Tide had bested Florida, but would face a Texas-sized nemesis in the championship game.
| Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas Longhorns All-Time Results (Prior to 2009)
||10-0, Texas triumph in Tuscaloosa
||20-0, Longhorns shutout 'Bama in Austin
||19-10, Texas win in Austin
||27-7, Longhorn victory in the Sugar Bowl
||3-3 tie in the Bluebonnet Bowl
||Texas defeated national champion Alabama 21-17 in Orange Bowl
||Texas wins Cotton Bowl 17-13 over the fourth-ranked Tide
||Longhorns beat third-ranked Alabama in the Cotton Bowl, 14-12
Bear Bryant, perhaps the best football coach ever, went 0-3-1 against the Longhorns. Texas, now led by veteran coach Mack Brown, was one of the program's few Achilles heels.
A tenacious defense, after an injury to Texas's Colt McCoy, feasted off of Garrett Gilbert's four interceptions to prevent a fourth-quarter comeback for Texas in the national championship game. A forced fumble and interception in the final 3:17 made the final score look like a blowout, but the 16-point margin of victory didn't matter. By beating Texas for the first time ever, the program won its first national title in 17 seasons.