Wow. Fate sure swooped in and pulled the rug out from under Texas last night.
Well, fate coupled with a few bad decisions, some instances of poor execution and a history of whistling past the graveyard of a potential Colt McCoy injury.
That said, I couldn't be prouder of this team. Hit below the belt with a devastating injury to its most important player, the rest of the team stepped up and went toe-to-toe with a great Alabama team. They put themselves in a position to march downfield for the win, but three late-game touchdown drives against one of the nations' best defenses was simply too much to ask of a true freshman quarterback with no meaningful in-game experience and little help from the Texas running game. Outside of a few dropped balls and a couple of weak first-half series by the defense, the Longhorn players have nothing to hang their heads about.
Congratulations to the team on a great season and an inspired effort last night.
It's easy to say Texas would have won the game if not for the McCoy injury, but the claim is difficult to prove and, honestly, meaningless. Texas lost, in large part, because our starting quarterback got hurt and our team wasn't prepared for that most dire of possibilities. The coaching staff's failure to recruit and prepare a second string quarterback is inexcusable. Colt's a 5th year senior, and our best back-up option is four years behind him. There's no justifying such a wide age gap at such a critical position. And not only is Gilbert young, but he went through an entire 13-game season without seeing the field in any meaningful situations. Quite simply, our coaching staff trained him to hand the ball off. So it should come as no surprise that, when Gilbert was forced into action in the first quarter of the national championship game, that's all he was capable of doing.
Yes, Greg Davis and the rest of the offensive staff made some nice halftime adjustments. Kudos to them. The second half game plan was impressive, and that should be applauded. But it was too little, too late. In my line of business, you learn early on that it's important to prepare your witnesses for depositions and trial testimony. They need to understand what to expect, and how to not allow an opposing lawyer to distort the story through misleading questioning. Cross-examination of an unprepared witness can prove fatal. Sure, a good lawyer can fix some of the damage with a clever redirect examination. But, typically, the damage is already done and can never be fully repaired. The same logic applies to managing a football team. The long-term failure to develop a quarterback (and a bizarre bout of pre-halftime panic) put the Longhorns in an 18 point hole from which they were unable to escape. Texas was forced to concede the vast majority of the first half to Alabama, and unable to completely recover in the second half despite admirable effort and play calling.
Texas lost this game over the last four seasons. Bad luck and poor preparation for a singularly disastrous possibility made winning last night impossible. But damned if I wasn't proud of the players, including a true freshman quarterback, who came this close to doing just that. Congratulations to the 2009 Texas Longhorns. And, fuck you, fate.