PASADENA, Calif. -- Sweet Colt Alabama?
Don’t start. Don’t even start.
The Crimson Lie?
Don’t you dare, not here, not now, not with a whole mess of Longhorns still sprawled across a wet Pasadena lawn, the eyes of Texas blackened and bloodshot.
Tainted, this ain’t.
Alabama’s 37-21 victory over Texas in the Bowl Championship Series title game at the Rose Bowl on Thursday night was fair and square, even if raised a little hair.
Or, as tackle Drew Davis later shouted defiantly through a crowded locker room hallway, “C’mon, man! We’re the dang national champions!”
There will be nice folks with Southwestern twangs who Friday — forever, really — will claim that Alabama was actually a national lottery winner.
They will make the point that the Tide would not be champions if Longhorns star quarterback Colt McCoy did not suffer a game-ending shoulder injury on his fifth snap.
They will note that the Longhorns played the entire game with a true freshman quarterback named Garrett Gilbert, a kid who had thrown all of 26 career passes.
They will remind that even with the kid, the Longhorns outgained the Tide by 14 yards and had the ball in the final four minutes trailing by three points. They will ultimately claim this proves that two-time Heisman Trophy finalist McCoy would have changed everything, especially the final score, and they’re not alone.
“I can certainly see why people might think this game is a little tainted,” said Tide tight end Colin Peek. “It’s going to be like, yeah, but you beat them without Colt McCoy. It’s going to be something we have to deal with.”
The idea is an interesting, intriguing germ of what could be a longtime debate.
It is also absolutely wrong.
The burnt-orange folks will ask their questions about Thursday night’s game, I’ll ask mine.
First question, was Colt McCoy playing defensive line? Was that McCoy’s replacement who allowed 205 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns, the nation’s best rushing defense sometimes turned into 11 revolving doors?
“We put it on our back when we had to put it on our back,” said running back Roy Upchurch.
While putting the Longhorns on their backs, running through holes as big as Bevo, even the hobbled Heisman winner Mark Ingram swerved for 116 yards.
Second question, was McCoy coaching? Was that McCoy’s replacement who called for Gilbert to throw the incredibly foolish shovel pass in the final seconds of the first half, resulting in a bobble and an interception returned for a touchdown?
It turned out to be the defining play of the game, two-ton Marcell Dareus’ stiff-armed stumble into the end zone giving Alabama a 24-6 lead. “A real killer,” said Texas Coach Mack Brown.
So why did you do it? Why didn’t you just take a knee and be thankful to escape the first half trailing by only 11 points?
“We were going to try to run down … then take a shot in the end zone,” said Brown. “We called a little shovel pass that I had never seen intercepted before.”
Shoveled over their chances, it did.
Third question, was McCoy the team disciplinarian? Was it his fault the Longhorns were stretched and stressed into 77 yards worth of penalties, including 35 yards of mistakes in a hand-wringing fourth quarter? Alabama had just 38 yards of penalties the entire game.
“Texas played a great game, they got down and came out swinging for the fences,” said Tide defensive end Lorenzo Washington.
“But it came down to making the plays. We made the plays.”
Champions make the plays.
When Gilbert dropped back to pass deep in Texas territory with about three minutes remaining in the same, linebacker Eryk Anders made the play, flattening him in the backfield, causing a fumble that led to Alabama’s game-clinching touchdown.
“We’re not worried about what anybody says,” said Anders. “So McCoy got hurt. Sometimes it happens like that. You still have to step up.”
Champions make the plays.
Even if healthy, McCoy would not have been on the field when Trent Richardson ran 49 yards nearly untouched up the middle for a first-half Alabama touchdown.
Even if healthy, McCoy would not have been in the end zone when Marquis Johnson broke up a Gilbert pass to Malcolm Williams in the middle of the second quarter, a lucky strike that could have changed everything.
Champions make the plays, even if sometimes those plays result in the short end of a brilliant college careers.
“We feel terrible about what happened to Colt McCoy,” said Alabama’s Washington. “It must be awful to be hurt so soon in the biggest game of your career.”
“But they didn’t give up. They didn’t freak out. They didn’t roll over. They fought us.”
And Alabama fought back, earning every inch of this championship, the BSC is no BS, the best team won, period, end of season.
Looking around as his team danced across the Rose Bowl field late Thursday amid confetti and firework smoke and the some of the coolest boyish grins ever, Alabama coach Nick Saban almost smiled.
“A lot of blood, sweat and tears,” he said.
None of it tainted.