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

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

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

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