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AUSTIN, Texas – Unranked Texas appears ready for the Southeastern Conference three years early.
But it was not quite in the cards for the 20-point underdog Longhorns to pull off a major upset of Alabama just yet. The No. 1 Crimson Tide beat Texas, 20-19, on a 33-yard field goal by Will Reichard with 10 seconds left in front of more than 100,000 Saturday afternoon at DKR Texas Memorial Stadium.
Reichard actually kicked the game winner twice as Texas had called a timeout before he made the kick the first time.
“I had total confidence in him,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. But he did not feel the same way about the rest of his team throughout the day.
The Longhorns (1-1) took a 19-17 lead with 1:29 to play on a 49-yard field goal by Bert Auburn. Yep, Auburn almost beat Alabama.
Alabama barely beat Auburn last year, 24-22 in overtime, in a similar game where the Tide slugged around before fortunately pulling it out against a team that finished 6-7.
“We were really not playing Alabama football for the first three quarters of the game,” Saban said. “We’ve just got to play better.”
And it was against a Texas team that finished 5-7 last season.
The Tide (2-0) drew 15 penalties for 100 yards and got break after break.
Texas lost starting quarterback Quinn Ewers to a shoulder injury early in the second quarter, but Ewers and backup Hudson Card still combined to throw for more yards – 292 – than Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who threw for 213.
Auburn helped Alabama’s cause by missing a 20-yard field goal that was partially blocked as time expired in the first half that would have put Texas up 13-10. Texas also missed out on an apparent safety in the third quarter after a questionable non-call.
“We don’t want penalties,” Saban said. “It’s about discipline. We made a lot of mental errors – shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Texas took a 16-10 lead early in the fourth quarter after two Auburn field goals. The Tide took its first lead since the first quarter when Young threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to tailback Jahmyr Gibbs for a 17-16 lead with 8:29 to play.
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Alabama rarely looked like the No. 1 team in this game, aside from an 81-yard touchdown run by tailback Jase McClellan for a 10-3 lead with 2:34 to play in the first quarter. But the rout was not on.
“Nobody gave us a chance,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “None of you. None of the national media. We didn’t lose today. We just ran out of time.”
And out of quarterbacks.
“You lose your starting quarterback,” Sarkisian said. “That’s never fun. And Hudson got halfway injured, but he fought through.”
Texas tied it 10-10 early in the second quarter on a 1-yard run by tailback Bijan Robinson following a 75-yard drive in six plays that shredded the Tide’s defense.
Late in the drive, Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner drove Ewers to the ground after an incomplete pass on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. It didn’t look like a dirty hit, but Turner was whistled for roughing the passer as Ewers was motionless on the field. Ewers eventually got up and was taken to the locker room with a shoulder injury and did not return. He finished 9-of-12 passing for 124 yards. Sarkisian did not know the extent of the injury after the game.
Card, who was briefly the starter last season before giving way to Casey Thompson, replaced Ewers and completed 13 of 21 passes for 128 yards.
“Alabama found a way to make plays when they needed to,” Sarkisian said.
He was talking about Young, who finished 27-of-39 passing for the 213 yards. He finished like a pro, completing 5 of 7 passes for 41 yards on Alabama’s final, game-winning field goal drive of 61 yards in nine plays over just 79 seconds. It was winning time.
Young’s best play was his 20-yard scramble from the Longhorns’ 37-yard line into sure field goal range inside the 20 after it looked like he was sacked. He did rush five times for 100 yards on scrambles in the opening win over Utah State last week. Could this be a trend?
“Bryce had a Houdini act to avoid the sack,” Sarkisian said.
That’s what it took for Alabama to win on this day, as it often does when it plays poorly. Red Magic.
But that will not last unless the Tide plays a lot better than this.