Bryce Young was not going to let Texas beat Alabama.
The No. 1 Crimson Tide survived a major scare from Texas after scoring with 10 seconds left in a 20-19 win. Texas took a 19-17 lead with 1:29 to go on a Bert Auburn field goal but Young continued to show why he was the 2021 Heisman winner with a fantastic fourth quarter.
"When his best was needed, it was really good," Alabama coach Nick Saban told Fox after the game.
Young was absolutely phenomenal over the final 15 minutes and his 20-yard scramble after a fantastic escape from the pocket set up Will Richard’s game-winning 32-yard kick with seconds remaining.
Young finished the game 27-of-39 for 214 yards and a TD to go along with 38 rushing yards. But his stats don’t fully explain how good Young was throughout the game. He would have easily had a prettier stat line without the myriad drops from Alabama’s receivers and kept plays alive all day with his legs and pocket awareness.
Texas hung in the game despite losing QB Quinn Ewers to a left shoulder injury late in the first quarter. Ewers was hit by Dallas Turner and landed on his left shoulder after throwing the ball away. He was replaced by Hudson Card and he almost led Texas to victory after the Crimson Tide turned the ball over on downs with 3:55 to go.
But a Will Anderson sack on third down followed by an Alabama timeout forced Texas into kicking a field goal with just over 90 seconds to go. And that stop gave Young and the Alabama offense plenty of time for the game-winning drive.
Saban said that he opted to go for it on fourth down and short at the Texas 25 with about four minutes to go and Alabama leading 17-16 because he was confident in Alabama's defense if the team didn't convert. Running back Roydell Williams tripped over the foot of an offensive lineman on the play and ended up inches short of the line to gain.
"Tough call down here [with inches to go], go for it or kick a field goal," Saban said. "But I just felt that we could go two-minute [offense] and kick a field goal if we needed to."
Alabama sets a Saban record for penalties
Describing Alabama’s play over the course of the game as “sloppy” may be an understatement. The Crimson Tide had 15 penalties — the most ever for an Alabama team coached by Saban — and either rewarded Texas with free first downs or canceled out their own first downs multiple times. Anderson had three offsides penalties in the first half and committed a late hit penalty in the second half.
Alabama struggled to run the ball too. The box score officially shows the Tide with 24 carries for 161 yards, but 81 of those yards came on a Jase McClellan TD run in the first quarter. Alabama otherwise struggled to get push against Texas’ defensive front and started moving the ball efficiently down the field in the fourth quarter after it committed wholly to the pass game. The Tide punted six consecutive times between its touchdown drives.
Positives for Texas despite Ewers' injury
The Longhorns entered the game as 20.5-point underdogs. They weren’t supposed to be competitive with Alabama. And yet plucky underdog Texas — OK, that’s a bit hyperbolic — hung with the Tide for the entire game with a backup quarterback.
Ewers showed that he was the real deal early in the game before his injury. He was 9-of-12 passing for 134 yards before he got hurt and Card had to enter the game. Card finished 14-of-22 passing for 158 yards and limped his way through the second half after suffering an apparent ankle injury.
Like Alabama, Texas also struggled running the football. Bijan Robinson had just 21 carries for 57 yards and made more of an impact in the pass game with three catches for 73 yards.
And while it’s hard not to feel good about Texas’ chances of a big step forward from a disappointing 2021 season after the loss, it’s also hard not to wonder what could be if Ewers is out for an extended period of time. This looked like a Longhorns team that could compete for a Big 12 title with Ewers slinging it and Robinson running it. Now the Longhorns may have to turn back to Card as their starting quarterback for a few games or more.