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Alabama tops Texas, 37-21, to win BCS title

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 8, 2010

PASADENA, CALIF. -- As the seconds wound down on Alabama's first Bowl Championship Series title ever and first national championship since 1992, Crimson Tide players gathered behind their coach, Nick Saban, and performed the customary celebratory act of bathing him in Gatorade.

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Even then, after his team had capitalized on an early first-quarter injury to Texas's Colt McCoy, the winningest quarterback in college football history, after his team nearly had squandered an 18-point halftime lead, after his team had survived to accomplish its greatest task, Saban remained the manic stickler.

"Well, I wish they'd do it with water, you know?" Saban said. "Gatorade is awful sticky."

The third-year Crimson Tide coach grinned. His team had just capped an undefeated (14-0) season; there was reason to loosen his white-knuckled grip just a little. Alabama defeated Texas, 37-21, Thursday night at the Rose Bowl, and Saban knew there certainly were worse circumstances in which he could have been trapped than to be sporting a sports drink-stained shirt.

McCoy, for instance, was forced to watch the second half unfold from the sideline after suffering a right shoulder strain on Texas's fifth offensive play of the night. After being stopped for no gain at the Alabama 11-yard line, McCoy left the field, retreated to the locker room for X-rays and did not return.

"He has played so tough and so hard all year, and he was trying at halftime to get back in," Texas Coach Mack Brown said. "I knew he wasn't healthy, and he wanted to play, and he shouldn't have. But that's how tough he is."

With just less than 11 minutes remaining in the first quarter, freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert, the national high school player of the year a season ago at Lake Travis (Tex.) High, lined up under center. Gilbert's entrance immediately made the Longhorns one-dimensional, relying on a rushing attack that had been deficient for most of the 2009 campaign to carry them against an Alabama run defense that ranked No. 2 in the nation. Predictably, the Texas offense stalled.

Meantime, Alabama's offense -- centered on a highly effective power run game -- began to gather steam. Utilizing the tailback tandem of sophomore Mark Ingram, this season's Heisman trophy winner, and freshman Trent Richardson, the Crimson Tide tallied 148 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the first half.

Forced by circumstance to throw the ball more as the game progressed, Gilbert's decision-making often reflected his minimal experience. With 15 seconds remaining before halftime, Gilbert attempted a shovel pass that was bobbled and then intercepted by Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.

"After that I blanked out," Dareus said. "All I was thinking about was Mark Ingram/Javier [Arenas] highlights, doing moves I didn't think I could do. I can't believe I pulled off that spin."

Indeed, with a Texas offensive lineman fast approaching, Dareus spun away and trucked 28 yards for a touchdown. Alabama led by 18 entering the intermission.

"It was like we won the game at halftime," Saban said. "You can't accept being average. You can't accept anything but the best knowing that when you play a team in the national championship game, that team knows how to win. They have great character themselves, and they have an ability to come back in the game."


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