Bama Survives Texas

First and foremost, if Quinn Ewers doesn’t get hurt, Texas wins this game. Probably easily, honestly. They were the better team for most of the game.

Second, even though Bama escaped this game, I think it’s going to be a long season for them possibly. They might lose 2-3 games.

This just did not feel like a normal Bama team. Not only all those penalties, but the lack of high-end talent at the skill positions. It seems like Bama has a bunch of nobodies at running back and receiver.

Bama had 161 yards rushing, but 81 yards were on one early TD run, and Bryce Young had 38 yards on the ground. Take away the one big play and the QB runs and Bama’s running backs had 16 carries for 42 yards. If you just take away their two longest runs–McClellan’s 81 yarder and Bryce Young’s 20 yarder–they’d have 61 yards rushing on 22 carries. That is very atypical of Bama.

Hats off to Gary Patterson for really shoring up that Texas Longhorns defense. I forgot he was on staff for them, and about midway through the second quarter, I thought to myself, “Man, Texas’ defense looks pretty damn good. How did this happen?” And then as if on cue, the broadcasters cut to Gary Patterson on the sideline. It all made sense then.

I don’t know how a team can get 15 penalties called against them and still get bailed out by the refs, but that’s what happened today. I swear the second Nick Saban gets angry and starts yelling at the refs, they start giving Bama every call–and ignoring penalties Bama commits.

Now I will say that Texas was not just a victim of the referees–they made some serious blunders themselves. And they were victims of circumstance as well: their starting QB Quinn Ewers went down with what looked like a separated shoulder at the end of the first quarter and had to play the remaining three quarters of the game with their backup QB, redshirt sophomore Hudson Card.

Card played pretty well given the circumstances, but he even got hurt later in the game. It was some sort of lower body injury. I don’t think the cameras caught the hit that caused it, at least not that I saw. They cut back to him after a play and he was limping around. He stayed in the game but he was not as effective. He was throwing with his upper body the whole rest of the game.

It’s a wonder Texas even had scoring drives after Card got hurt, but they were able to get three additional field goals.

Unfortunately it wasn’t enough.

There were three major moments that I thought doomed the Longhorns, and several other minor injustices that also contributed. But let’s go over the big ones:

  1. The safety that wasn’t called
  2. The missed 20-yard field goal before halftime
  3. The missed sack on Bryce Young at the end

The safety that wasn’t might have been one of the most egregious calls in college football history if they actually went through with it.

Seemed like a pretty clear safety. Bryce Young sacked in the endzone, but the refs throw a flag for “roughing the passer” as well as targeting. When they showed the replay, it was clear there was no targeting–the defender who came in late hit Bryce Young in the legs because Bryce Young was flipped upside down on the initial tackle. But it also wasn’t roughing the passer because it turned out Young wasn’t even down–he was on top of the Texas defender. Thankfully the refs reviewed it and determined there was no targeting and no roughing the passer (didn’t know they could pick up a roughing the passer flag after a review, but I’m glad they did because it was the right call).

But instead of being a safety it was just 4th down for Alabama. I don’t understand how that play wasn’t ruled a safety. Bryce Young was falling to the ground and just chucked the ball away, and it bounced off a Texas defender’s helmet. It should’ve been either intentional grounding in the endzone or he should’ve just been ruled down early by the refs.

The way I think of it is this: the only reason the refs didn’t rule it a safety was because they threw a flag for targeting. But once they reviewed the play and saw there was no targeting, why wasn’t it ruled a safety? It was a huge blown call, especially in a game that Texas lost by a point.

Next fatal error (which actually happened prior to the safety that wasn’t called) was Texas’ kicker–ironically named Bert Auburn–missing a 20 yard kick at the very end of the first half. Score was tied 10-10, Texas had heroically driven down the field with very little time on the clock to give themselves a chance to go into halftime with a lead.

But the hold was bad and Auburn shanked the kick. Hudson Card was the holder on the kick, and it was after he had already been thrust into the starting QB role. I’m sure having to be the starting QB affected his ability to hold for the field goal unit. Not saying it’s an excuse but it probably contributed. You just can’t miss a 20-yard field goal–bad hold or not.

Texas had 5 different trips to the red zone, but unfortunately they only came away with 19 points. 3 field goals and 1 TD:

  1. Opening drive, Bama 8 yard line, field goal
  2. Second drive, TD
  3. 5th drive, end of first half, missed field goal at Bama 2 yard line
  4. 8th drive, 6:27 left in the 3rd quarter, Bama 15 yard line, field goal
  5. 9th drive, 12:55 left in the 4th quarter, Bama 6 yard line, field goal

Obviously credit to the Bama defense for forcing field goals. But Texas was at a severe disadvantage with their backup QB, and there were some big missed calls in the red zone (there was a facemask the refs missed that would’ve given Texas a first down inside the 5).

The last major blunder for Texas I want to talk about is the missed sack at the end. Yes, the Bama tackle #65 got away with an egregious hold that sprung Bryce Young, but #6 on Texas just HAS to make that tackle. He just has to.

It would’ve been a 2nd and 17 from the Texas 43 yard line with 34 seconds to play. Bama would’ve had to burn their final timeout. Instead, Bryce Young gets free and runs it all the way down to the Texas 19, and goes out of bounds in the process, saving a timeout. Just killer. You know it was over at that point.

I really do think Texas should’ve won this game fairly comfortably had they just not made mistakes and had Quinn Ewers not gotten hurt.

But alas. The ink is dry on this game. Texas has to be heartbroken that they didn’t win, but it’s also very encouraging that they were *this close* to beating Bama. You have to feel pretty good about where you are as a football program if you’re Texas. Especially the offensive line: I thought the Texas offensive line held up very well against the Bama defensive front. I was impressed by how much time the Texas quarterbacks consistently had in the pocket. And that’s the real measuring stick when you play against a team like Bama: can you compete with them in the trenches? I think the answer is yes for Texas. They also had 7 QB hurries on the defensive side.

As for Bama, I’m interested to see how much they’re punished for this. Ohio State dropped in the rankings after beating the #5 team in the country by 11 points. Bama barely squeaked by an unranked opponent, so you’d think they fall for this.

Then again, it is Bama. We know Bama is held to a different standard.

But even if the AP voters don’t punish Bama, I think Bama might be in for a long season. I do not think they are an elite, world-beating football team like they usually are. I think this Bama team has some real flaws and real vulnerabilities. They barely beat an unranked team playing with a backup quarterback.

I think at this point you have to look at Georgia as the clear-cut best team in the country. I think if Bama and Georgia played next week, Georgia would win big.

However, the good news for Bama is that they have a long time to right the ship here.

A few extra tidbits about the game:

  • I was very impressed by Quinn Ewers in what little game action he actually had. I wasn’t sure about him, as he was at Ohio State last year and didn’t play much, then transferred down to Texas. But he was so young at Ohio State last year. He skipped his senior year of high school and moved from Texas to Columbus. Right now he’s basically a freshman in terms of age even though it’s his second year in college. I think Ewers is going to live up to the hype, honestly. But he’s going to have to contend with Arch Manning next season, as Arch Manning is committed to the Longhorns. I wonder how that’s going to work out? If Ewers is as good as he looked against Bama, I think Arch Manning might have to transfer. And that is not a knock on Manning at all, either.
  • It was pretty wild that the last time Texas and Alabama played was the 2009 National Championship Game, and Alabama won after knocking Texas QB Colt McCoy out of the game with a… shoulder injury. This was supposed to be the moment Texas finally got revenge for that game, and instead the same thing basically happened again.
  • Texas football really of went into a tailspin as a program after that game, crazy enough. From 2001 to 2009, Texas football went 101-16 as a program. From 2010 to present, Texas has gone 84-68 overall (including this season). Texas has only had ONE 10-win season since 2010 (2018, when they went 10-4). There have been multiple occasions over the past 13 seasons where Texas was pronounced to be “back,” but it was always a false alarm. It now seems like Texas may be back for real this time. I think they’re on the right track.
  • Steve Sarkisian is such a brilliant playcaller. I’m continually impressed by him. Every time the cameras cut to him, he’s crouched down, scribbling something down while talking into his headset. He seems to hardly ever look at the actual game. He’s just down there cooking up plays. I mean, when Ewers was in the game, they were moving the ball. Even when Card was in the game and healthy, they were moving the ball decently well. I first realized how good Sark was at calling plays in the 2020 National Championship game between Bama and Ohio State when Sark was Bama’s OC. He just coached circles around the Ohio State defense. Ohio State’s defense had absolutely no answers for what he was doing–he continually found ways to get DeVonta Smith the ball in space. He just completely outclassed Ohio State’s coaching staff. It was a masterclass. And now he’s brought that playcalling brilliance to Texas. What’s more is that it does seem like in the 2 years since he left Bama, Bama sorely misses him. It’s not a fair comparison because Bama had a ton of roster turnover from 2020 to 2021, but in 2020, Bama’s offense averaged 48 points a game, and in 2021 they averaged 40. In 2020, Bama’s offense average an insane 7.8 yards per play, in 2021 they averaged 6.6. The Sarkisian effect?
  • Final point that I thought was notable: Bama beat Utah State last week 55-0. This week, Utah state got absolutely blasted by FCS school Weber State, 35-7.

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