PASADENA, Calif. -- They came to see Sinatra, they got Pee Wee Herman.
Nothing against Garrett Gilbert but, Pee Wee actually has a better completion percentage.
OK, cheap shot but like a lot of fans I felt cheated, or at least let down at the BCS Championship Game where Alabama defeated Texas 37-21. For six weeks we'd built up this tilt between filthy-rich, tradition-bound college football superpowers. Five snaps into it, it was like somebody kidnapped the Pope.
Or at least Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus ended Colt McCoy's career with a clean, hard hit on an option run at the Alabama 11.
Five snaps and the only hope for Texas when No. 3 trotted out there was that somehow McCoy had changed numbers, not that Gilbert's bladder control was about to be tested.
Clean up on the 20 yard line!
OK, another cheap shot but we came to see a championship game, not the headless horsemen -- Texas' Colt-less offense.
Gilbert, next year's starter, was Thursday's Hail Mary. Texas fell behind 24-6, rallied to within 24-21 then gave up two late touchdowns. It was a noble effort but no one can expect a freshman with 26 career passes to win in the Rose Bowl in what was essentially his first start.
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I'm still disappointed because McCoy was disappointed. He stood in front of his locker and said on at least three different occasions that, yes, he would have made a difference.
"I'd have given anything to have been out there because I know it would have been different," McCoy said.
Texas coach Mack Brown defined how different.
"It wouldn't even have been close," he said in an unguarded moment outside the locker room.
The quarterback had his faith tested, not quite questioning God but the gods of football when he was knocked with what was described as a pinched nerve in his right (throwing) shoulder.
"To win 13 games ... and then to come here and it be taken away from you, I don't understand I guess," McCoy said. "I am truly disappointed because I would have made a huge difference tonight. We were about to dominate the game."
Maybe we should have known Texas was doomed from the beginning when the 'Horns couldn't cash two early breaks into touchdowns. An interception (off a foolish fake punt by Alabama) and a recovered kickoff each resulted in field goals.
But certainly McCoy wasn't about to start, like Gilbert, 1 for 10 with two interceptions. A bobbled shovel pass turned into a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown by, who else, Dareus with three seconds left in the half.
"Our chances were good either way," linebacker Cory Reamer said, "whether he [McCoy] was in or he was out."
McCoy spent part of halftime trying to throw but he didn't know where the ball was going.
"They say when you injure a nerve like this as a quarterback, there's no direction in [your] balls," said McCoy whose arm was "numb" after the hit.
"It would be so easy to question why. Why did it have to happen at a time when I'm most needed? I played my whole career to be on this stage. I know what it would have been like had I played that game."
The pride of Tuscola, Texas -- the program's all-time leading passing leader and the game's winningest quarterback completed a 4-yard pass to Malcolm Williams about three minutes into the game. It was his last.
Some tears could have flowed when you think about the scene behind the Texas bench shortly before the game.
Vince Young recounted the words he told to McCoy four years ago before Young went out and led the game-winning drive against USC.
"One day you're going to have the same chance," Young said.
So, yes, Alabama should rightly celebrate its ninth national championship of the wire service era. Nick Saban should be deified -- and will in Alabama -- for nailing down the great program's first title in 17 years. He became the first coach since at least 1936 to win national championships at two different schools.
Put him down as the coach of the decade.
|The hype of the championship game takes a big hit with Colt McCoy sidelined. (Getty Images)|
We came for Colt, we got Garrett. A star was born, just too late. Garrett's beautiful 28-yard strike with Jordan Shipley with 6:15 left cut the lead to three. But he also threw four interceptions and missed on 25 of 40 throws. It was too much to ask the leading passer in Texas schoolboy history to beat Alabama's best team in recent history.
"I feel sorry that Colt got hurt and he couldn't finish the game but, hey, we won," linebacker Rolando McClain said probably speaking for Tide Nation. "You can't take this victory away from us. In the end you see Alabama, national champions. End of story."
Go ahead, credit the Tide which may have won anyway had McCoy finished. That's the thing, I feel cheated because we'll never know. Their defense predictably stopped Texas' anemic run game. Texas couldn't stop a Heisman Trophy winner (Mark Ingram, 116 yards) and his immensely talented sidekick (Trent Richardson, 109).
But when Dareus' hit decided the outcome four minutes into the game, you could almost hear the collective gasps of half the fans in the Rose Bowl.
"It was," Dareus said gleefully, "a great hit on Colt McCoy."
No one can argue. It's just that this was the Beatles without Lennon, Jay-Z without his mic, Oprah without her fork. Something was missing. Folks who paid up hundreds of bucks for tickets apparently didn't read the fine print disclaimer: "In the event of an injury to a two-time Heisman finalist and the winningest college quarterback in history, the BCS is not liable for your bummer."
Saban the super serious, super genius left opening after opening. Openings that Colt could have galloped through. 'Bama never did quite figure out Texas' pooch kicks to keep the ball away from returner Javier Arenas. A Leigh Tiffin 52-yard miss in the fourth quarter gave Texas field position for its final touchdown.
Even when Saban received the traditional Gatorade bath, he didn't smile. In fact, he looked quite perturbed.
Enjoy the moment, Nick. Have fun. Sip a glass of wine. You can always get a new shirt. Colt will never have his championship.