McCoy’s injury leaves cloud over ‘Bama’s win

CFN’s Instant Analysis of Alabama’s 37-21 win against Texas in

the BCS Championship game.

‘Bama doesn’t owe anyone any apologies

Alabama won the national title, and it doesn’t have to

apologize to anyone.

It’s not the Tide’s fault that Texas didn’t

adequately prepare its backup quarterback, have more of a running

game, or put all its eggs in the Colt McCoy basket. It’s not

the Tide’s fault it knocked out McCoy, Mack Brown

brain-cramped more than a few times, allowing ‘Bama its Jack

Squirek moment at the end of the first half, or that it did what it

had to do to make the game uglier than it probably should’ve

been.

Yes, Alabama won the national title, and it doesn’t

have to apologize to anyone.

Yeahhhhhh, but …

It’s not fair to assume that Texas wins this game if

McCoy doesn’t get hurt, but it’s going to be hard to ever

think about this national title game without thinking about McCoy

and how Texas was hamstrung. Alabama certainly would’ve kept

up the intensity for as long as it would’ve needed to, and

it’s up to Texas to have the backups prepared, and have the

rest of the team be ready to pick up the slack if the unthinkable

happens, but this just sucks.

It’s not fair that anyone should have even a shadow of

doubt in their minds about how the BCS Championship turned out,

it’s not fair that the Tide had to win this way, and it’s

mostly not fair to McCoy, one of the genuinely classiest players in

the college football world, to not get a chance to show what he

could do in the biggest moment of his life.

This was cruel, and this was unfair. McCoy could’ve

taken Texas to a Big 12 title game early in his career, but he got

hurt against Kansas State trying to get into the end zone and the

team never recovered. He could’ve taken the Longhorns to a

conference title and the BCS Championship against Florida, but the

Big 12 South tie-breaker rules screwed them over. And now this.

Nebraska fans might say that Texas got its huge break to get

to Pasadena in the first place after the way the Big 12

championship ended, but no matter what you think of a Goliath like

Texas, and no matter who you root for, this wasn’t right, even with

the way Garrett Gilbert brought the team back.

Please, don’t deny Alabama its greatness and

don’t mentally put an asterisk next to the national

championship. But yeah, it’s alright to feel cheated about

what might have been.

— Pete Fiutak

Brown’s shovel-pass call was baffling

Alabama is the 2009

national title holder, a worthy and unbeaten champion. Yet, why do

I feel just a little bad for the Crimson Tide in the aftermath of

its 37-21 victory?

‘Bama is the best team in America. I felt that before the

game and I feel it now. However, no matter how you spin it or try

to ignore reality, you know that this title has a little less pop

since it was won while Colt McCoy, the soul of Texas, spent the

majority of the game injured on the sidelines. I take nothing away

from the champions, but plenty of others will nudge me into the

minority. Heck, their points won’t be without merit. Not only

did the Longhorns lose McCoy for all but a few minutes of the

opening quarter, but his backup, Garrett Gilbert, is a true

freshman, with only mop-up experience on his resume.

Gilbert already looks as if he’ll be a worthy successor

to McCoy, and the fact that he had Texas within three in the fourth

quarter was the second-biggest story of the night. However, he was

not a part of the plan this evening and, at times, was overwhelmed

by the enormity of the situation. Though no one will ever know how

McCoy would have fared in 60 minutes of action, you can bet he

wouldn’t have turned it over five times, like Gilbert did,

including a crushing miscue just before halftime that DE Marcell

Dareus returned 28 yards for a touchdown. Like it or not, by the

way, Mack Brown’s decision to call a shovel pass in his own

territory with a rookie quarterback and just seconds left on the

clock will be scrutinized in Austin forever. And it should be.

Since the pairing was announced in early December, this game

was broken down and scrutinized from every imaginable angle. Not

one of those analyses, however, included the name Garrett Gilbert.

It’s the unpredictability and hairpin-turn nature of sports

that makes it the original and unparalleled reality TV show. Texas

got thrown a nasty curve ball in Pasadena and darn near turned it

around for one of the greatest comebacks in postseason history.

Good for the ‘Horns for never quitting on this game and giving the

rest of us a reason to stay engaged until the end. The

circumstances of McCoy’s shoulder injury, however, should

take nothing away from Alabama’s national championship. From

start to finish, there wasn’t a better or more complete team

in the country in 2009.

— Richard Cirminiello

Boise deserves a piece of the championship pie

1. Well, what did we learn at the end of one of the most

unsatisfying and empty college football seasons in quite some time?

Texas struggles when Colt McCoy can’t play quarterback, but

partly because the Longhorns’ receivers – except for

Jordan Shipley – lose confidence and precision. We learned,

too, that the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram, had a mighty

fine teammate – Trent Richardson – by his side in the

Alabama backfield. We learned that Greg McElroy played far above

his pay grade on Dec. 5 in the Georgia Dome. And boy, did we ever

learn that Urban Meyer must have been really, really sick and

physiologically unsettled during the SEC championship game.

Other than that, just how much value or meaning can be taken

from a game that – in the final minute of the first half

– evoked powerful memories of Jack Squirek plucking a

pick-six from Joe Theismann in Super Bowl XVIII? How much stock can

be placed in a game that lacked its most legendary player (not its

best player), Mr. McCoy?

This is what happens, ladies and gentlemen, when a

“postseason” – such as it is – lasts all of

one game. There’s a reason why 99 percent of sports use at

least two rounds of competition to decide championships.

There’s a reason why a national championship – barring

the rare emergence of The One Perfect Scenario – simply

can’t be contained in one game or decided on one night.

There’s a reason why – in a sport with a regular season

that’s just 12 games long – the current system

isn’t nearly equipped to answer a majority of meaningful

questions.

In only three of the BCS’s 12 years has a national

championship game eluded the taint of the word

“mythical.” In nine of the BCS’s 12 seasons, the

end of the regular season has been met with an exercise as

scientific, objective and decisive as a game of Russian roulette.

We don’t have to have a playoff. We don’t. What

college football needs, though, are three primary ingredients in

future seasons, especially now that a new BCS television and

scheduling arrangement will begin with the 2010 season and continue

through January of 2014:

Ingredient No. 1: Have every league play a conference

championship game, or have no conference championship games. The

leagues that play for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game

must exist on a level playing field, one way or another. Uneven

situations lead to imbalanced equations that give teams from

certain conferences (the SEC and Big 12) a leg up on the field in

the race for the big piece of crystal. Until college football finds

a uniform answer to the conference championship game issue,

we’ll have more messy Decembers and Januaries.

Ingredient No. 2: Have a major made-for-TV non-conference

game on the schedule of every conference champion, and institute it

as a 12th game… with or without conference title games at the

end of the regular season. The Texas team that competed so bravely

in Pasadena on Thursday night was nevertheless a team that

didn’t have to play a big-time non-conference opponent. TCU

and Cincinnati – for all of their bowl-game stumbles and

fumbles – did notch significant non-conference scalps, but

weren’t rewarded for them.

It’s not as though Texas didn’t deserve to be in

the Rose Bowl; the Longhorns had as good a claim as anyone else,

and had more of a claim to this moment after getting royally jobbed

in 2008. Nevertheless, if all conference champions (including the

Mountain West champ and Boise State or the WAC champ) played a big

non-conference game at the end of November or the beginning of

December, we’d have fewer unanswered questions in this sport,

and that’s all anyone should ever want or hope for. We might

not answer ALL questions on the table, but we can certainly

eliminate some.

This leads us to Ingredient No. 3: An elastic, provisional,

conditional (read: non-automatic) plus-one.

If there’s still one really big unanswered question

after the bowls, have the Rose Bowl (since it’s not an NFL

stadium and isn’t subject to a scheduling conflict) host a

plus-one championship game one week after the bowls.

Come on, now: Sunday, Jan. 17, 7:45 p.m., live from Pasadena:

Boise State versus Alabama. In a fair world, this is what should

happen. But of course, college football insists on having mythical

national championships. For shame.

2. Last year, a hypothetical vote – a vote I

don’t have – would have been split between Utah and

Florida, in the absence of a playoff or, at the very least, the

provisional plus-one outlined above.

Since Texas outfought and outplayed Alabama for most of the

evening, even without Colt McCoy, of course I’m going to go

there again: A ballot – if entrusted to me tonight –

would be split between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Boise State

Broncos.

Alabama deserves to be called the 2009 national champions of

the Football Bowl Subdivision of college football. Absolutely. Just

give the boys from Boise a piece of the pie, too. Shared national

championships were supposedly going to be eliminated by the

“objective” BCS, but we all know otherwise. Let’s

just man up, pretend like it’s Miami-Washington in

1991… or USC-LSU in 2003… or USC-Alabama in 1978…

or Penn State-Nebraska in 1994… Miami-Auburn in 1983…

or Michigan-Nebraska in 1997… and split a vote between Boise

and Alabama.

Tide fans, who should rightly revel in a mountaintop moment,

do not need to feel guilty in the face of Colt McCoy’s

untimely injury. People throughout the state of Alabama should

party like it’s 1993, the last time a ‘Bama bunch celebrated

a national championship. All that’s being asked of the

citizens of Tuscaloosa and everywhere else “Rammer Jammer

Yellow Hammer!” is proclaimed is that Boise State should

share the stage as a college football crown-wearer. It

doesn’t diminish Alabama’s accomplishments or stature

– not in the least – to have the kids from Idaho

standing on the medal platform with an additional set of gold

medals draped around their necks.

For yet another season, if we’re not going to bother to

have a playoff, let’s not insult the intelligence of fans by

insisting that only one team can or should be called champion.

Alabama, congratulations on a hard-earned and well-deserved

national title.

Boise State, congratulations on the same. Now both of you, go

home happy… and Tide fans, don’t think that

anything’s being taken from you as a result.

— Matt Zemek

Gilbert gives Longhorns hope for 2010

Sometimes it’s

better to be lucky than good. Nick Saban found out the hard way. If

Colt McCoy doesn’t get hurt and throw the Texas offense into

a funk for nearly three quarters, Alabama doesn’t win. If the

Longhorns score touchdowns instead of field goals in the first

quarter, Alabama doesn’t win.

If the Crimson Tide had lost, it would have been all on

Saban. A disastrous fake punt gave Texas the early edge. Even more

baffling was a 52-yard field goal attempt when Alabama was

dominating the game simply on the basis of field position.

The great freshman quarterback wave of 2009 appeared to reach

its apex in week two, when Matt Barkley and Tate Forcier led

last-second wins over Ohio State and Notre Dame. That almost

changed in Pasadena in the biggest game of the season.

Garrett Gilbert overcame major first-half jitters to nearly

engineer the stunner of all stunners. Once he got rolling in the

last ticks of the third quarter, it felt as if Alabama would need a

miracle to hang on.

The shadow of McCoy was destined to loom large over the Texas

program in years to come, but now the transition looks far easier.

The Longhorns will be back in the mix in 2010.

The BCS started because of petty jealousies over the Rose

Bowl’s status. In the BCS era, the Rose Bowl has managed to

hold its prestige – even elevate it – while the other

three bowls have dealt with bad matchups, empty seats and marginal

to poor TV ratings.

Outside of the forgettable Oklahoma-Washington State game,

has any other BCS bowl welcomed more superpowers, more superstars

or more memorable moments than the granddaddy of them all?

— Dan Greenspan

Both coaches made questionable calls

It wasn’t pretty, but pretty doesn’t count in the national

championship game. All that matters is the crystal football –

and that’s exactly what Alabama is taking back to Tuscaloosa. But

let’s be honest, this game was won by the head coach who made the

second-worst coaching blunder.

Nick Saban got the shenanigans started off early with a

backwards three-and-out, followed by an ill-fated fake punt deep in

their own territory that was intercepted on the first drive of the

game. Then, with a marginal lead and 30 minutes to play, Saban goes

into a shell that would make Tommy Tuberville proud, allowing Texas

to get back to within three. You’d think that would be enough to

lose, but it wasn’t.

Not to be outdone, with under 30 seconds to play in the first

half following an Alabama field goal, Mack Brown calls a draw, then

a timeout, and then a shovel pass that gets intercepted and

returned for a touchdown. Why not just kneel on it? It’s obvious

that the Longhorns are trying to run the clock. With backup

quarterback Garrett Gilbert on the biggest stage that any college

player could possibly have, take it into the locker room and come

out firing in the second half. But Gilbert threw the pick six, and

that one play is what determined the 2009 national champion. That

one play shouldn’t have happened, and the blame falls squarely on

Mack Brown.

If Colt McCoy hadn’t gone out, would it have been different?

Yeah, probably. I think it’s certain that Texas wouldn’t have

looked so bad on offense in the first half. But in the end, Alabama

takes home its eighth national championship in the school’s

illustrious history. Some people will devalue the game because of

McCoy’s injury, but Alabama won this the way it’s been winning all

year – with defense. It started in the first half holding

Texas to two field goals early. And it ended with an Eryk Anders

sack and forced fumble, putting the final nail in the coffin. It

was only fitting.

— Barrett Sallee