AUSTIN, Texas – Perhaps it was the 11 a.m. kickoff.
Maybe it was the 20-point spread that gave the Alabama football team a false impression of both itself and the Texas Longhorns. Or maybe it was just Steve Sarkisian’s team playing a gritty brand of ball that the Crimson Tide didn’t expect from a program that has come to be known for succumbing to grit more than summoning it.
Whatever the cause, when the wake-up call came, Alabama hit snooze, rolled over, and pretty much slept in until the fourth quarter of a thrilling 20-19 comeback win at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday. When it did finally awaken, however, the Crimson Tide took a double shot of espresso to finish the job. And it might need a chaser in practice this week to clear whatever cobwebs might remain.
REPORT CARDGrading Alabama’s offense against Texas
Alabama didn’t draw a fourth-quarter penalty after amassing a whopping 15 of them for 100 yards in march-offs through the first three quarters.
Its wide receiving corps − which struggled to get open, resulting in some hesitancy from quarterback Bryce Young − had just three catches for a meager 14 yards entering the final period. The group then came alive for 10 fourth-quarter grabs, several of which fueled a game-winning drive that began with just 1:29 remaining. Amid those receptions, Bryce Young made the play of the game with his feet, ducking a would-be sack and scrambling 20 yards to the Texas 17 to put Alabama in all-important field goal range. UA coach Nick Saban noted that he was fully confident Young would move the ball in the two-minute drill, because “he does it all the time.”
Perhaps Alabama should’ve gone with the two-minute package all day, because other than Jase McClellan’s 81-yard jaunt for UA’s first touchdown, the offense was largely stagnant until it roared to life in the nick of time.
It was an about-face that left Texas with a heartbreaking home loss.
Austin’s CBS affiliate, in its advance report on the game Friday night, described it as the most anticipated Texas home game since LSU visited UT in 2019. That says something about the Big 12, and why the Longhorns are uprooting their flag and replanting it in the conference that sent those big games Texas’ way. But it also says something about the Longhorns that they responded to the feverish atmosphere by battling the nation’s No. 1-ranked team yard for yard, score for score, until falling by a single point.
And it left Alabama with more kinks to work out than it can count on two hands.
Young and his receivers plainly need some fine-tuning, as does the protection and run blocking up front. The pass defense gave up nearly 300 yards despite playing most of the game against a backup quarterback, yielding most of 25 first downs. And Lord help the first player who commits a penalty on the Alabama practice fields this week.
Even the coaching staff wasn’t spared in Saban’s list of concerns.
“We probably needed to do a better job from a planning standpoint, the way they played us,” Saban said.
Saban used words like resiliency and perseverance in complimenting his players for finding a way to pull victory from what he acknowledged was, by and large, a dismal performance. But those traits can’t be relied upon for wins every week when SEC play commences. Resiliency can’t always deliver when it’s matched with poor play.
This was the narrowest of escapes.
And the loudest of wake-up calls.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread.