PASADENA, Calif. -- The wear and tear was noticeable on their faces. Tired Texas players like Lamarr Houston and Roddrick Muckelroy showed the effects of trying to contain bruising Alabama running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson during a long night at the Rose Bowl.
The Longhorns’ No. 1 national defense was gashed for a season-worst 205 rushing yards as Ingram rushed for 116 yards and Richardson added 109 in Alabama’s 37-21 victory in the Citi BCS National Championship game.
But despite those numbers, Texas made adjustments in the second half and the defense was one of the key reasons the Longhorns had a chance to win. Texas allowed only 57 rushing yards after the break, and continually came up with the key plays that were missing in the first half.
"The defense was out there a lot with (quarterback) Colt McCoy being gone,” Houston said. “We were playing tough and played through a lot of adversity all night long. And we were right there.”
The Longhorns’ defense came up with three, three-and-out possessions to start the second half, and Alabama's only two scores of the second half came off late turnovers. The Texas defense gave the Longhorns a chance to pull back into the game when the offense finally started clicking behind freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert.
“We did all we could do to keep the game close,” Muckelroy said. “The defense stepped up and made some plays. They got us early, but in the end, about four plays killed us.”
Richardson’s 49-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter sliced through the middle of the Texas defense. It was one of four rushing touchdowns the Longhorns allowed Thursday night after giving up five rushing TDs in the 13 previous games.
“It was disappointing they got to us like that,” Houston said. “But we bounced back and did what we could to make adjustments to get back in the game.”
It was the second-most rushing yards against a Texas defense since Will Muschamp arrived last season. Only Oklahoma State's 217-yard effort last season surpassed the title game.
While Texas struggled containing the running game, Muschamp cooked up a pressure-heavy defensive front that sacked Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy five times.
The ringleader of the Texas pass rush was Sergio Kindle, who had his best game of the season with eight tackles, 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses.
“Our game plan was to get pressure on their quarterback,” Kindle said. “We thought their lineman were good in run blocking but might have slip-ups in pass coverage. We tried to get speed off the edge and middle. And those plays started coming for us as the game went on.”
But there weren’t enough of those big plays for the Longhorns to overcome the way the Tide won the battle in the trenches, using a methodical offensive philosophy.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” Houston said. “I’m proud of the team and our players for stepping up and almost winning this game. It was a good effort, but in the end it just wasn’t good enough.”