PASADENA, Calif. -- Like a baseball hitter who knows when he gets a hold of one just by the way his hands feel on contact, Marcell Dareus knew he'd tattooed Texas quarterback Colt McCoy.
What he didn't know was that it would be the final play of McCoy's brilliant career.
"I didn't want him to be out for the game. You never want to hurt anybody, and you always want to beat teams at their best," said Dareus, Alabama's sophomore defensive end.
"But I knew I'd got him by the way the hit felt and by the way his head rocked back. I got a clean shot on him, and those are the kind of hits you can feel."
It was also the hit that paved the way to Alabama's 37-21 win and its first national championship in 17 years.
McCoy never returned from the pinched nerve he suffered on Texas' fifth offensive play of the game. His backup, true freshman Garrett Gilbert, played valiantly, but he also wasn't the real McCoy.
"That comes with the game," said Dareus, named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Citi BCS National Championship Game. "Sometimes you miss. Sometimes you land a good one. The main thing is that we made enough plays to walk out of here with a championship.
"That's what we all came here for, to get this program back to winning championships. It still hasn't sunk in. It probably won't for a while."
Dareus' night was far from over after knocking McCoy out of the game. In fact, he would strike again in the first half with a play that completely turned the game in Alabama's favor.
With 15 seconds remaining and Alabama leading 17-6, Texas coach Mack Brown decided not to play it safe.
Instead of taking a knee and going into the half down 11, the Longhorns tried a shovel pass from their own 37. The ball deflected off of Texas receiver D.J. Monroe's hands, and Dareus was there for the carom.
"It almost seemed like slow motion," Dareus said. "I saw it hanging there and knew I had to get it."
Dareus might be a 6-foot-4, 296-pound defensive end, but he looked awfully comfortable toting the rock.
He stiff-armed one Texas player and then did a little pirouette on his way to a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"All I was thinking about is Mark Ingram and Javier [Arenas] and just doing moves I didn't think I could do," Dareus joked. "I was like, 'I can't believe I pulled off that screen.' I saw the lineman coming for my legs, and my first reaction was to spin.
"I looked to my left and saw Eryk Anders. I knew it was a touchdown. I could not wait to get to the end zone."
Dareus' return made it 24-6 going into halftime and totally changed the complexion of the game.
And with the way Texas battled back in the fourth quarter, who knows where the Crimson Tide would have been without Dareus' defensive touchdown?
Or his only tackle.
That's right, the only tackle he was credited with was the one on McCoy.
"That put a dagger in them. You could see it in their faces," Alabama nose guard Terrence Cody said. "The game started going downhill for them from there. They came out after halftime and fought back, but we had to finish. That's what we do."
Chris Low covers college football for ESPN.com. You may contact him at email@example.com.