PASADENA, Calif. – From a bizarre start to a breathtaking fourth quarter, Thursday's BCS championship game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Texas provided many moments – some head-scratching, some sad, some sensational.
In the end, the Crimson Tide prevailed 37-21, buoyed by a bruising running game, backed by a big play defense. Alabama ran for 205 yards. Heisman winner Mark Ingram gained 116 yards and scored two touchdowns. The Tide intercepted four passes and recovered a fumble.
When quarterback Colt McCoy was hurt on Texas' first possession, the life appeared to be sucked out of the Longhorns. The more backup Garrett Gilbert struggled, the worse things seemed.
But a rousing fourth-quarter rally, engineered in part by Gilbert and Jordan Shipley, resuscitated the game.
Below is a quarter-by-quarter analysis of how things played out.
SCORE: TEXAS 6, ALABAMA 0
Talk about high emotion. The first quarter had a little bit of everything.
And the team that should have had all the momentum, Texas, was instead stunned by the loss of its star quarterback.
The quarter closed with Alabama knocking on the door.
Key play: What was Nick Saban thinking? Bottled up on its first possession, facing a fourth-and-23 at the Alabama 20, punter P.J. Fitzgerald's pass off a fake was picked off by Blake Gideon. Texas mounted a 10-play, 36-yard scoring drive capped by Hunter Lawrence's 18-yard field goal.
Key play II: A successful pooch kick kept the Longhorns chugging. Brock McHenry's monster hit forced an Alabama fumble. Curtis Brown recovered, setting Texas up at the 30. Lawrence's 42-yard field goal made it 6-0.
Key injury: Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury. Garrett Gilbert replaced the All-American. Gilbert couldn't get Texas into the end zone as McCoy went to the locker room.
Key stat: Texas' two sacks (Sam Acho, Lamarr Houston).
SCORE: ALABAMA 24, TEXAS 6
As Texas backup Garrett Gilbert failed to move the Longhorns' offense, reports broke that Colt McCoy's right shoulder was being X-rayed with his parents waiting in the locker room. Officially the word was McCoy would be re-evaluated at halftime.
Meanwhile, Alabama's one-two punch at running back came up with a couple of scoring blows.
Key play: Trent Richardson ripped through the Texas front for a 49-yard touchdown run at 7:59 and a 14-6 edge. Richardson was the picture of speed and power on the jaunt that left the Longhorns and their fans slack-jawed. He had 66 first-half yards.
Key play II: Mark Ingram busted over the goal line for a 2-yard TD with 14:19 remaining giving Alabama a 7-6 lead. Ingram's burst finished a seven-play, 57-yard drive. Ingram had 90 yards in the half.
Key defender: Javier Arenas’ interception of a Gilbert pass at 7:12 snuffed a Texas drive. But the Tide failed to convert the turnover into points.
Crazy call: An ill-advised shovel pass in the waning seconds of the quarter by Gilbert was picked off by Marcel Dareus and returned 28 yards for a score. 24-6 Alabama. Lights out Longhorns?
Key stat: Gilbert 1-of-10 passing, -4 yards, two interceptions.
SCORE: ALABAMA 24, TEXAS 13
Garrett Gilbert returned at quarterback as Colt McCoy was officially done for the day. The defenses dominated most of the quarter, before Gilbert finally got off the schneid.
Key play I: Gilbert hit Jordan Shipley with a pretty, 44-yard touchdown pass with 1:31 left, making it 24-13 and emboldening the Longhorns.
Key play II: On the ensuing kickoff, Justin Tucker line-drived a boot off Brad Smelley and Texas recovered at its own 42. But they failed to sustain a drive and punted the ball away. The good news: they pinned Alabama at their 6.
Opportunity lost: After Texas took over at their own 47 with 6:19 left, they went three and out, then punted into the end zone. No points, no field-position edge. Nothing.
Key stat: Alabama held to three yards total offense.
FINAL SCORE: ALABAMA 37, TEXAS 21
The budding Garrett Gilbert to Jordan Shipley combo made things interesting for Texas.
A game that appeared to be over and that had lulled the crowd was suddenly rocking the Rose Bowl.
Then a colossal hit and resulting score foiled an epic comeback attempt.
Key play I: Alabama's Eryk Anders breezed past the protection and slammed Gilbert to the turf, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Courtney Upshaw at the Texas 3 with 3:02 on the clock. Three plays later, Mark Ingram blasted over from the 1 to make it 31-21. The Tide added another score after a Gilbert interception.
Key play II: Gilbert continued his amazing turnaround by finding Shipley for a 28-yard touchdown pass with 6:15 left. Gilbert's two-point conversion pass to Dan Buckner made it 24-21 Alabama.
Kicked away: The Tide's Leigh Tiffin missed a 52-yard field goal attempt wide left with 11:13 remaining.
Key stat: Gilbert threw a pair of interceptions on Texas' final two possessions.