By Michael Casagrande
PASADENA, Calif. — The bowl of roses was a crimson paradise Thursday night.
Taking advantage of a stunning injury to Texas' All-American quarterback, and with its bruising running game, Alabama steamrolled through the first half and survived the second to claim national championship No. 13 in the historic Rose Bowl.
Alabama running back Mark Ingram (22) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter of the BCS Championship NCAA college football game against Texas in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Alabama 37, Texas 21.
And Nick Saban, he'll get his statue.
But it certainly didn't come easily although a pair of late turnovers skewed what appeared to be headed for thrilling ending.
“This is bliss,” Tide senior offensive lineman Mike Johnson said afterwards.
Leading by just three, the win was all but sealed when Eryk Anders hit and Courtney Upshaw's fumble recovery with just minutes remaining gave Alabama the ball at the 3.
Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram exorcised the ghosts of the recent past by scoring the game clinching touchdown from a yard out. A Javier Arenas interception led to a Trent Richardson score.
Ingram, named offensive MVP, gashed the nation's top-ranked rush defense for 90 yards in the first half before cramps limited his second half. He finished with 116 yards on 22 carries.
But it was his understudy, Trent Richardson and defensive lineman Marcell Dareus who blew things open with two huge plays. Richardson, a true-freshman, ran 49 yards untouched in the second quarter to give the Tide a 14-6 lead.
As the Texas offense continued to struggle without quarterback Colt McCoy, who injured his right shoulder on Texas' fifth play, Dareus took advantage. He intercepted a shovel pass from redshirt freshman backup Garrett Gilbert and ran it 28 yards for the touchdown that left just three seconds on the first half clock.
Trailing 24-6 at halftime with its leader out of the game, Texas was on the verge of being blown out.
It wouldn't be that easy, though.
Texas clamped down on an Alabama offense that came out of halftime with a conservative game plan. Five runs and a screen pass netted just one yard on the first two possessions of the second half for the Tide.
It didn't matter, though.
Without much threat on the Longhorn defense and an 18-point cushion, running the clock while allowing the defense to do its job worked just fine.
Jordan Shipley's 44-yard touchdown reception with 1:31 left in the third quarter put a little extra heat on the Tide after giving up its first points since half way through the first quarter.
A second kickoff flub followed as the ball was driven off Brad Smelley and recovered by Texas to re-energize the Longhorn crown.
A quick 3-and-out was followed by a 4:15 Alabama drive aided by a pair of 15-yard penalties that ate up precious time.
While the rushing game gashed holes in the Texas front, the Tide passing game was nearly non-existent. Four sacks in the first half limited McElroy to four attempts, two completions as Ingram and Richardson carried the load. McElroy three just 11 times, completing six for 58 yards.
Early on, Alabama's Thursday night was hardly a thing of beauty.
Unlike in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama's opening moments were disastrous. A three-and-out featured a penalty, sack and was topped off by a peculiar fake punt. Former high school quarterback and senior punter P.J. Fitzgerald's pass on the fake fell well short of an open Dre Kirkpatrick and was intercepted by Blake Gideon.
A quick hitting Texas drive put three points on the board, and the possession that followed a recovered pooch kick put the Longhorns ahead 6-0 before the Tide ran its fourth offensive play.
But, it was the seemingly benign quarterback run on Texas’ fifth play changed everything — sending its four-year starter to the locker room and thrust untested freshman into the biggest game of his life.
And the inexperience showed.
For one half, anyway.
The Longhorns managed just 18 yards on the next 15 plays as the Alabama defense keyed on the rushing game.
And with the middle plugged, misdirection was the only alternative. The only big play of the next five drives, an 28-yarder by D.J. Monroe was followed two plays later by a Javier Arenas interception at the Tide 25. It ended the most promising drive since the opening minutes for Texas that was moving the ball with ease before McCoy went down.
Newtown, who completed 1-of-10 passes in the first half, came back to throw a pair of touchdown passes to Shipley that cut the lead down to three.
But it was Alabama's night.
And the late turnovers made it so.
Championship No. 13 was delivered to Tuscaloosa on Thursday night.