Alabama football earned a tough win at Texas, so let Longhorns have the excuses | Goodbread

Chase Goodbread
The Tuscaloosa News

AUSTIN, Texas − What if?

What if Texas' defense had been able to stop the Alabama football team in the fourth quarter the way it did in the first three? What if it had made a chip-shot field goal before the half? What if Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy, who tortured the Alabama secondary for much of the day, hadn't dropped an early would-be touchdown pass in the end zone?

These what-ifs are feeling neglected in the aftermath of the Crimson Tide's 20-19 win at Texas on Saturday, as well they should. They became what-if orphans the moment Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner put Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers out of action in the first quarter with a hit that sucked a palpable amount of oxygen out of Darrel K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

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It was a positively eerie moment that time-traveled a packed house of 105,213 back to January 7, 2010, in Pasadena, California, where star Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy was knocked out of a BCS Championship Game loss to Alabama. Texas' what-if crowd took it from there, convinced the outcome would've been different had McCoy been able to play. That tired excuse was dragged around the Lone Star state for so long that UT coach Steve Sarkisian, who coached at Washington at the time and had no ties whatsoever to that game, brought it up again at his Monday news conference.

Someone send a memo to former Alabama defensive tackle Marcel Dareus, whose hit on McCoy gave birth to this skewed reality: after 12 years, you're finally off the hook. Now it's Turner's turn to be the Texas villain for who knows how many years to come. Ewers had looked sharp and was well-protected, for the most part, before Turner's hit forced the Longhorns to turn to backup Hudson Card at quarterback. As if the moment needed anymore drama, Turner was flagged for a personal foul for driving Ewers into the turf. He certainly landed on top of Ewers, but that call is usually made when there's malice involved, and there was nothing malicious about the play.

Regardless, there's a new name to fill in the what-if blank now.

In the burnt orange imagination, Ewers can pull it out with some late heroics or lead a rout with 400 yards passing.

But this game wasn't about the losers' misfortune, just like it wasn't 12 years ago.

Alabama overcame a raucous crowd, untimely penalties and quarterback Bryce Young's least effective performance to win an early-season test on the road. Young settled down in the fourth quarter well enough to pull out a victory by the slimmest of margins. Linebacker Will Anderson Jr., who'd been quiet for much of the day, delivered a key sack in the final minutes. Kicker Will Reichard, with the ice-water veins necessary to beat the Texas heat, punched home a game-winning field goal to finish a hard-earned comeback.

In the end, it was settled by the players who were on the field.

Not by the absence of one who couldn't be.

Reach Chase Goodbread at Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread.

Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.