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TUSCALOOSA, AL- I don’t know if Texas is ‘Back’, but they put the college football world on notice Saturday night against Alabama. The narrative gets thrown around way too often after the Longhorns win a big game, but Steve Sarkisian silenced a number of doubters, while Nick Saban was left looking for answers.
Over 100,000 fans were packed into Bryant Denny Stadium looking for a classic showdown between two schools looking to change opinion of their programs. What was billed as the pre-cursor for what this rivalry will look like once Texas joins the SEC in 2024, this game had many different turns in a wild fourth quarter that saw five touchdowns.
The outside noise around the Texas program has been building over the years, with questions of whether or not they could finally put together a performance that would make folks pay attention. What we witnessed tonight was Texas forcing the college football world to take notice of the rebuild in Austin.
There were doubters, folks who thought Steve Sarkisian would once again fumble the opportunity. It hasn’t been the easiest of times in Texas over the last number of years, wondering if the Longhorns could finally get over the hump. The problem is that we won’t know if Texas has finally learned from past mistakes, but tonight was a step in the right direction, on a very big stage.
Ten penalties from Alabama, two that resulted in touchdowns coming off the board, will be criticized. But this stat wasn’t the reason Texas won tonight. No, that came in the trenches, where they forced Jalen Milroe to run, a lot. But just as much as the penalties were uncharacteristic, so were the opposing wide receivers running wide open around the field.
We haven’t seen a team pass on Alabama like this since the 2022 Tennessee game, with Texas receivers running wide-open throughout the field. But it wasn’t just the passing game that put Alabama in serious trouble tonight, it was the defensive line pressure on Jalen Milroe.
As a few thousand Texas fans started chanting ‘SEC, SEC, SEC’ in the visitors section, Alabama fans made their way towards the exits.
Texas Dominated The Momentum Game Against Alabama
As Steve Sarkisian threw his hands in the air, while showing the Longhorns sign, there was a massive reaction from the Texas bench. The momentum that they had been quietly building inside the football building had paid off, if for this one night. Sure, there were doubters, but there weren’t many folks clad in burnt orange that were doubting their team tonight.
There were times in the third quarter when it looked as if Texas was about to run away with the win, but that feeling had to wait. Right before the 4th quarter began, Alabama had finally taken the lead, bringing hope to what had already been a crazy game for fans wearing crimson. I surely haven’t seen a defensive line give Alabama that many problems, sending Jalen Milroe scrambling on multiple occasions.
Don’t forget, Alabama had not lost a home game against a non-conference opponent since 2007, in the loss to UL-Monroe. But that streak came crumbling down on the biggest stage of the early 2023 football season.
After trading punches like a heavyweight fight, with five touchdowns scored over a six-minute span of the 3rd and 4th quarters, Texas finally put Alabama away with one last right hook from Quinn Ewers. The Longhorns had taken the momentum and weren’t giving it back, winning its first game over a top-5 opponent since 2018.
Matter of fact, this was the first road win over a top-five team since 2010, making the moment that much sweeter.
Longhorns Earned This Moment For High Expectations
We didn’t know how this season was going to turn out for Texas, and we still don’t. But what we do know is that the Longhorns needed to finally get over the hump if a playoff run was going to happen this season. Besides the fact that Texas hasn’t won the Big 12 title in over 5,000 days, it always felt every decent win was described as a ‘prove it now’ moment.
Well, after torching the Alabama offensive line, while Quinn Ewers made it look like he was throwing on-air in practice warmups, Texas now has a target on its back, finally. It’s been far too long since this school has been taken seriously in the month of November, so maybe that changes in 2023. But tonight was about building upon the expectations laid forth by Steve Sarkisian, which they handled in a dominant fashion in Tuscaloosa.
Now comes the real challenge, which is backing up this win with eleven more. Holding up the Big 12 championship in their final season in the conference is highly attainable, which could then lead them to the playoffs. Point is, Texas is now expected to win, with a lot of momentum headed into the rest of this season.
Is Texas ‘back’? We’ve got about twelve more weeks for them to make that assertion true.