PASADENA, Calif. -- It was the kind of game that left Texas players feeling empty, wondering if they could have beaten Alabama under some different circumstances.
Like having a healthy starting quarterback. Or without a botched shovel pass late in the first half that cost them a touchdown, a touchdown that proved to be pivotal at the end of a 37-21 loss to the Crimson Tide.
“Who knows?” Texas senior defensive end Sergio Kindle said. “If Colt hadn’t gotten hurt, things might have been a little different. It’s something we’ll never know.”
The Longhorns were already in a huge hole after McCoy’s injury occurred only five plays into the game. But Alabama was able to cruise into a 24-6 halftime lead after a bizarre call. Backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert's shovel pass for D.J. Monroe was intercepted by Marcell Dareus for a 28-yard touchdown with three seconds left in the half.
Texas coach Mack Brown initially considered letting the clock run out. But the Longhorns got greedy, thinking they could hit a big play and get some points.
“We knew it would be a struggle with points and we felt that with 15 seconds left we had the safest thing,” Brown said. “We called a little shovel pass that had never been intercepted before and I certainly never had seen it intercepted for a touchdown. We were trying to run down 10 or 15 yards and then take a shot in the end zone.”
Instead Brown’s gamble backfired and gave the Crimson Tide a huge surge of momentum before the break.
“They tried to shovel pass and my first reaction was to grab the ball,” Dareus said. “Then I blanked out and all I could do was think about Mark Ingram and Javier (Arenas), and making all the moves I didn’t think I could do. I saw the lineman coming for my legs and my first reaction was to spin. I looked to my left and I saw Eryk Anders and I knew it was a touchdown. I could not wait to get into the end zone.”
Brown didn’t show the moxie Thursday that led to eight bowl victories in the past nine seasons, and a 3-0 record in BCS games. The Longhorns battled to overcome mistakes for much of the night.
But Brown said he was proud of what his team accomplished during a 17-game winning streak that stretched back to a October 2008 loss at Texas Tech.
“I told the guys they had a great run,” Brown said. “I thought they were prepared and had worked really hard. Losing is tough. We’re proud to be in the national championship game, and it’s still equally hard to lose it.”