AUSTIN (KXAN) — One football game changed the trajectory of football-storied college football programs in dramatic fashion — Jan. 7, 2010.
Texas entered the BCS National Championship game looking for their second title in five years while Alabama was looking to win their first in 18 years.
Texas had won 10 or more games for the ninth straight season while Alabama had three double-figure win seasons the previous nine years.
On that night at the Rose Bowl, Texas intercepted Alabama on a fake punt on their opening drive at the Crimson Tide 37-yard line. Five plays later, Colt McCoy suffered a game-ending neck injury on first down from the Alabama 11-yard line. Freshman Garrett Gilbert entered the game, Texas was held to a field goal and then hit on a second field goal to lead 6-0 after the first quarter.
With McCoy in the locker room, Alabama scored 24 unanswered in the second quarter including an interception on a shovel pass with just seconds to go to lead 24-6 at the half. Texas pulled within three at 24-21 with 6:15 to go in the game after a pair of Gilbert to Jordan Shipley touchdown passes.
Texas had the ball down three with under three minutes to go, but Alabama came up with back-to-back turnovers on their way to the final 13 points to win 37-21. Texas was left wondering what would have happened if their Heisman Trophy finalist McCoy could have played the entire game and head coach Mack Brown admitted years later that he had a hard time letting go of that outcome.
Over the next 12 years, Texas would win 10 games just once, in 2018, the same year they played for their only Big 12 Championship during that time. In that time, the Longhorns are 84-67 with five losing seasons since that game and Steve Sarkisian is the program’s fourth head coach.
Meanwhile in Tuscaloosa, that Alabama championship was the start of a run never seen before in the modern era of college football. Alabama has gone on to win five more National Championships and lost in the title game three other times, including last season.
In that span, Alabama has a record of 165-17. Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian was part of 38 of those wins including being the offensive coordinator for the 2020 national title team. Sarkisian took the Texas job and then returned to work at Alabama before the Crimson Tide blew out Ohio State 52-24. The Alabama offense averaged 48.5 points per game during the 2020 season.
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Sarkisian understands how badly Texas fans want to return to being a national contender but warns against making this game a turning point in the program.
“I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is, this is going to be the game that’s going to define our program,” Sarkisian said. “It might, it might not, I am not that concerned about it. I’m more concerned about just the way we play the game. My goal is to be in Dallas Dec. 3 [Big 12 Championship game in Arlington]. This game has no impact on that. It’s an awesome opportunity, two good teams, two good coaching staffs in an unbelievable environment.”
This game marks the third time that Texas has played host to the No. 1 ranked team. In 1950, Texas beat top-ranked SMU 23-20. In 2006, the No. 2-ranked Longhorns lost to No. 1 Ohio State 24-7. Overall, Texas has played against the No. 1-ranked team 16 times and have won five of those games — the most recent was the epic 45-35 win over Oklahoma in 2008.