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AUSTIN, Texas – Everyone of the Burnt Orange of Texas answered the bell here for No. 1 Alabama and the Longhorns’ dress rehearsal for the Southeastern Conference, which it will join for real in two or three years.
“It’s great,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said at halftime. “It feels like an atmosphere we see frequently throughout the season.”
Yes, the Big Noon Saturday on FOX had a definite SEC feel to it, including the following ingredients:
-Sixth Street and the other enclaves of bars and restaurants began selling beer at 7 a.m. … Check.
-Many Texas students were on hand three hours before the game, and they gave Alabama coach Nick Saban hell. … Check.
Everyone Was At Alabama – Texas
-Texas hosted ESPN’s GameDay and the flood of national media like an old pro, which it is at big games. (The SEC didn’t actually invent these types of Saturdays. Texas did win national championships in 1963, ’69, ’70 and 2005.) … Check.
-And the Longhorns played hard and with electrictiy on arrival (which is more than Alabama can say). … Check.
-Texas stayed late. It was was in it until the very end and should have won. … Check, before losing 20-19 on a 33-yard field goal with 10 seconds to play after a Houdini scramble by Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.
Not to mention a phantom no-call of obvious holding against Alabama right tackle JC Latham, who grabbed and pulled Texas defensive end Ovie Oghoufo, allowing Young to gain 20 yards and put the Tide in field goal range just in time for the win.
Then Texas coach Steve Sarkisian took the microphone.
“In the end, that’s the best team in the country, and we feel pretty good about ourselves,” he said.
The first part is accurate, but it was not very true on this day. Alabama looked awful, playing much like it did in near losses to Auburn and LSU last year, and did not resemble a No. 1. The second part is wrong to say. Texas’ players should feel good about how they played, yes. But Sarkisian shouldn’t say that. He came too close to winning, and should have won, to say something like that.
I’m sorry. He sounded like a Little League coach talking to parents.
With another third down conversion here or there, a touchdown instead of a field goal here, a field goal instead of a blocked field goal there, a touchdown catch instead of a drop here and one stop at the end of the game, Texas wins. If blitzing defensive back Ryan Watts can make a basic tackle of Young over the final seconds, Young does not have that 20-yard scramble to put his team in field goal range.
It would have been better if Sarkisian threw some things around in the press conference than putting a bottle of feel-good on everything. He should’ve gone all Mark Richt. After the normally mild-mannered Richt and Georgia lost the SEC Championship Game to Alabama, 32-28, in 2012 with his team threatening to score inside the 10-yard line as time expired, he banged the press table with his fist. All right!
That’s the SEC reaction, Coach Sarkisian. You should know better. You were just offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2019 and ’20 and an analyst in 2016, for crying out loud.
“In the end, it still stings,” he added. OK, that’s better.
But then he added this.
“We didn’t lose today. We just ran out of time.”
OMG! Please, not that. Factually wrong, for one. You lost, and you had plenty of time.
“Somebody asked me during the week if this game was going to define us,” Sarkisian continued. “It’s not.”
Actually, it may just have, particularly if Texas goes on to lose other close games it should win this season.
Florida coach Dan Mullen should have beaten Alabama last season in an eerily similar game in Gainesville. Somehow, Alabama pulled it out again, 31-29. And that game basically defined the rest of Florida’s season that finished 6-7 and that of Mullen’s stay at Florida. He was fired.
That will likely not happen to Texas this year. It did look much better than advertised. Obviously, the 20-point spread was a joke.
“If that was the best team in the country, and we took them down to the wire, we can play with about anybody,” Sarkisian said.
Again, that’s accurate, but it’s not very true, and it echoed what Mullen said last year after the Alabama game.
Alabama did not play like the No. 1 team in the nation on this day. The Tide looked more like it was No. 18, and most of that wasn’t because of Texas’ play.
Alabama was sloppy and committed a very non-Alabama 15 penalties. Edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. looked nothing like a Heisman candidate. He couldn’t stay on his side of the line before the snap. It was ridiculous.
In the SEC, Sarkisian has to win those games, and if not, don’t be so content with almost doing so. Or you just won’t fit in.