By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
Heading into the season, most figured Thursday night's BCS championship game would feature the Alabama-Florida winner and Texas.
That's exactly what the great sport got, but the game played out in a way that was anything but predictable.
Texas lost star quarterback Colt McCoy to a serious shoulder injury on his team's first offensive series, and while the Longhorns came to life in the second half, Alabama got a pair of late touchdowns to salt away the school's first national championship in nearly two decades.
Heisman winner Mark Ingram scored on two short touchdown runs for the Tide, which completed only the third 14-0 season in the history of major college football.
"We had our eyes set on this since the beginning of the year," Ingram told ABC's John Saunders during the postgame trophy presentation. "It was truly a team effort. I'm just proud of everybody."
Ingram, just a sophomore, ran 22 times for 116 yards, while his backfield buddy, Trent Richardson, had 19 carries for 109 yards and two more scores.
Led by future NFL stars Rolando McClain and Terrence Cody, Alabama's stout defense hogged the headlines in the weeks leading up to the game. But it was Marcell Dareus who blasted McCoy on a keeper on Texas' fifth play, knocking major-college football's winningest quarterback out of his career finale with 56 minutes left.
Despite the injury and the heartbreaking loss, McCoy manned up after the game and spoke to ESPN's Lisa Salters, holding back tears, regaining his composure, then giving credit to Alabama. Then he described his injury.
"There's no pain in my arm," he told Salters. "I just can't feel my arm ... My arm's dead."
Dareus wasn't done making big plays after McCoy's departure. With just a few seconds left before halftime, Dareus intercepted an ill-advised shovel pass from McCoy's replacement, Garrett Gilbert, and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown, giving Alabama a 24-6 lead heading into the locker room.
It took a while after the break, but eventually Gilbert gained some confidence and connected with Jordan Shipley for a touchdown late in the third quarter and another one midway through the fourth. Texas pulled to within 24-21, but Gilbert's four interceptions -- and a late fumble he lost inside his own 5-yard line -- proved to be too much to overcome, and Alabama added those late scores to finish off its first championship since the 1992 season, and the school's eighth in the major poll era.
Alabama started very curiously, returning a short kickoff only six yards, then dialing up a fake punt on 4th and 23 at its own 20-yard line on its initial series. Coach Nick Saban called a pass that was intercepted, and Texas marched for an early field goal.
"I think we had a lot of anxiety at the beginning of the game," Saban said. "We made some mistakes."
The Longhorns tacked on another three points before Ingram scored on a 2-yard run early in the second quarter. The Tide would tally 24 points in that quarter to seemingly put it away, but Gilbert and the Longhorns made it interesting in the final two quarters.
+ Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy had a subpar game, but managed it effectively enough to get the win. The Texas native who was not recruited by the Longhorns told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi after the game that he's "so glad to be able to add to the history of Alabama football."
+ Saban becomes the first coach in the modern era to win national championships at two different schools. He also guided LSU to the 2003 national championship. Saban didn't, however, seem to enjoy the Gatorade bath that ruined his precious white shirt in the game's closing seconds. "I wish they'd do the water," he said at the postgame press conference. "The Gatorade's awful sticky. But I'm a lot happier with the bath than I would have been if I didn't get one."
+ With McElroy, Ingram, Richardson and star wideout Julio Jones all returning, Alabama seems a likely No. 1 preseason pick next summer.
+ Prior to the game, football fans were treated to a banner flown above the Rose Bowl blasting Alabama's governor.
+ And during the game, a man dressed like he should have played a role in the "I cast a level 2 charm spell" commercial had to be corralled and escorted off the field.