Well, you have to admit, no one saw that coming. While plenty predicted an Alabama win, they certainly didn't predict Colt McCoy's injury and subsequent early exit from the national title game. At the time, the game was a one-sided butt-kicking in Texas' favor. After McCoy's exit, Texas' offense fell lifeless for most of the game as backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert was ineffective until he threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to Jordan Shipley to bring the Longhorns back to within three at 24-21.
Unfortunately, just when it looked like Gilbert had Texas in position for a possible comeback, he was sacked and coughed up the ball deep in his own territory. On the ensuing short drive, the Crimson Tide put the game away a touchdown run to make it 31-21.
Mark Ingram will go down as one of the few Heisman winners who didn't jinx his team, mostly because he didn't play the whole game. You could take it as a sign that maybe Ingram really wasn't as good as advertised, that he was nursing an injury, or that his backup Richardson was just as good or better, but then you'd have to wonder why Ingram won the Heisman Trophy.
There are a few things Husker fans can take away from the game, even beyond the fact that Alabama couldn't kill a Texas team with a struggling backup quarterback (as if that weren't enough to convince people that the Blackshirt defense is much better than Alabama's Sabinator defense).
First and foremost, the Husker defense ends the 2009 season as the top scoring defense in the nation. Nebraska and Alabama were neck and neck coming into the final game of the season (11.2 vs 11.0 points per game), but the Huskers blanked Arizona while the Crimson Tide gave up 21 points to the Longhorns. That left Nebraska as the leader, giving up 146 points on the season compared to ‘Bama's 164. Over 14 games, Nebraska opponents averaged only 10.4 points per game, compared to 11.7 for Alabama. It is the first time since 1984 Nebraska finished first in scoring defense.
Husker fans have complained about Shawn Watson's "multiple offense", the chief complaint coming because it's too complex and therefore takes too long for quarterbacks to learn. Simple is better is the argument there.
Yet Watson's offense gives Nebraska the diversity to work around the issues that Texas faced last night. Texas doesn't run a heavy set, nor do they even have a fullback. Given Gilbert's inexperience and an ineffective run game, the Longhorns could have used both especially when ‘Bama downed a punt at the the Texas two late in the second quarter. Texas couldn't get the ball out of their own end zone and ultimately had to punt, giving ‘Bama a short field at the Texas 29-yard line. Even then, the Tide had to settle for a field goal.
Texas could have used some alternatives while Alabama's offense was stumbling over itself, unable to put the game away in the third quarter. Instead, they chose to spend the second quarter stifling their own offense while trying to limit Gilbert's potential mistakes. Watson's offense wouldn't have left them in that predicament.
Watching Texas punters John Gold and Justin Tucker lose the field position battle while trying to keep the ball away from Crimson Tide punter returner Javier Arenas had to have Husker fans thankful for Alex Henery. It should have left no doubt that Henery is a game-changer, as much or moreso as a dangerous punter returner like Arenas.
With a minute left, Alabama ran the ball into the end zone from the Texas two for a meaningless touchdown to make the 37-21 finalscore look more lopsided. Saban probably felt like he had to add a punctuation mark, as if those extra points would remove the asterisk. Tom Osborne would have taken a knee there, but if you needed proof those times are gone and that grace is dead, there it is.