By Dennis Washington
PASADENA, CA (WBRC) - The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Texas Longhorns 37-21 Thursday night, becoming the national champions of college football for the first time since 1992.
The Crimson Tide scored three touchdowns in the second quarter and two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory, holding off a Texas team that rallied in the second half without their star quarterback.
Running back Trent Richardson scored the final touchdown for Alabama, his second of the night. The extra point attempt was no good.
The tone of the game changed dramatically midway through the first quarter when Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was hurt during a quarterback keeper near the Alabama goal line. McCoy immediately left the game for x-rays on his right shoulder. He did not return.
In his place was Garrett Gilbert, a freshman from Austin, Tex., who struggled in the first half against Alabama's defense. He completed only one of his 10 passes and was intercepted once. Texas only scored two field goals in the first half.
Gilbert did lead the Longhorns on two touchdown drives in the second half. Both drives ended with long touchdown passes to wide receiver Jordan Shipley, and the second drive included a two-point converstion to bring their deficit to 24-21.
But Alabama got a break near the end of the game when Courtney Upshaw recovered a Texas fumble inside the Texas 10-yard line, setting up Ingram's game-winning score.
The Longhorns held Alabama scoreless most of the second half by stopping Alabama's running game. Alabama had only 13 yards of rushing through most of the second half.
Alabama also struggled to move the ball in the first quarter, but gained momentum late in the quarter and dominated the second quarter, rushing for 148 yards.
Alabama running back Mark Ingram scored a two-yard touchdown run at the beginning of the second quarter, capping a seven-play, 57-yard drive. Alabama's second touchdown came with 7:59 left in the first half when running back Trent Richardson ran 49 yards for a touchdown.
Leigh Tiffin kicked a 26-yard field goal with 29 seconds left in the game. Then, after the kickoff, a Texas pass from Garrett Gilbert at the Texas 28 was intercepted by Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, who ran it 28 yards for a touchdown with just three seconds left in the half.
The score was 24-6 at halftime.
Texas, under the direction of Gilbert, got more organized in the second half. Gilbert led the team in the third quarter on a 59-yard drive that ended when Jordan Shipley caught a 44-yard pass for a touchdown, then led them on a 10-play, 65-yard drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a 28-yard pass to Shipley.
Alabama struggled to move the ball in the first quarter. In its opening series, Alabama received the ball to start the game, but lost yardage in the first three downs. Alabama attempted a fake punt, but the pass was intercepted by Texas on the Alabama 38 yard line. Alabama had only 11 yards on offense after its first two possessions.
Thursday's win ended a swift, three-year turnaround the Alabama football program. Head coach Nick Saban was hired in January 2007 and quickly rebuilt the program into a national contender.
Alabama ended the season 14-0. Texas ended the season 13-1.