In loss, Texas football just sent a powerful message to Alabama and the SEC | Toppmeyer
AUSTIN, Texas – Flag bearers stationed at the 5-yard line held banners showing the emblems of each Big 12 team while the national anthem played Saturday at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Minutes later, more flags arrived on the scene, these showing Alabama's script ‘A.’
It served as a visual juxtaposition of where the Texas Longhorns are and where they’re going.
And that script 'A' doesn't intimidate Texas.
The SEC will welcome Texas as an official member no later than the 2025 season, and the way Saturday unfolded, the Longhorns are prepared for their new home.
A Texas crowd that started assembling outside the stadium in the predawn hours nearly witnessed a takedown of the nation’s supposed best team.
No. 1 Alabama survived its entry into the Sark tank, imitating last season’s cardiac Crimson Tide in a 20-19 victory won with Will Reichard's field goal in the closing seconds.
No. 22 Texas (1-1), after getting smacked by Arkansas last season, showed notable gains under second-year coach Steve Sarkisian.
“I don’t think we’re that far off," Sarkisian said. “We didn’t lose today. We just ran out of time.”
What Nick Saban said about Texas Longhorns
The last time the SEC invited two Big 12 members into its conference, Texas A&M won 11 games in its debut season behind Johnny Manziel, and Missouri won the SEC East twice in a three-year span.
So, yeah, I think Texas will be fine.
"If they were in the SEC now, they’d probably be in the top half of the league," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
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Saban used to torture his former assistants in head-to-head matchups, but all that work in Dr. Sabanstein’s lab created a couple of monsters. Saban lost to two former aides, Kirby Smart and Jimbo Fisher, last season, and Sarkisian nearly made it three’s company.
Too bad Jeremy Pruitt and Will Muschamp are no longer head coaches to offer Saban a pick-me-up.
Give Dallas Turner the game ball for his second-quarter hit that knocked Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers out of the game with a clavicle injury.
The play drew an overzealous flag for roughing the passer, but Turner's hit played no small part in Alabama (2-0) prevailing.
Even with a Heisman Trophy winner in the building, Ewers had played like the superior quarterback for a quarter. He led scoring drives on each of the Longhorns’ first two possessions, showcasing both his composure and his strong arm.
Without him, Texas’ offense became more limited, but the Longhorns led 19-17 after a field goal with 89 seconds remaining. Such moments are what Young was made for, though. Young regained his Heisman form while engineering a pair of fourth-quarter scoring drives.
Alabama football escapes thanks to unflappable Bryce Young
This narrow outcome doesn’t ensure future success for Texas or doom the Tide.
Dan Mullen can attest to that.
Florida pushed Alabama to the brink in a Week 3 game last season, the first of many Alabama escapes en route to the national championship game. Florida went into a tailspin, and Mullen was fired.
But for one afternoon, at least, Texas played like the more physical and certainly the more disciplined team. Alabama amassed 15 penalties.
Arkansas whipped Texas at the line of scrimmage last season, a show of how much the Longhorns needed to toughen up. They appear to have done so.
Texas consistently won the line-of-scrimmage battles. Alabama’s offensive line couldn’t even muster enough inertia to move the chains on a fourth-and-half-a-yard late in the fourth quarter, giving Texas a chance to take the lead.
While Young bailed out Alabama, once again, the void of Jameson Williams’ departure to the NFL loomed large. Young could have used a big-play threat like Williams to take the top off the defense. Still, Young remained unflappable in pressure moments. So did Reichard, who drilled a 33-yard field goal after Young's 20-yard scramble away from pressure put Alabama in position.
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Oh, what could have been for Texas if not for Ewers' injury.
It must have felt like déjà vu for Texas after Colt McCoy’s shoulder injury hamstrung the Longhorns in a 2010 BCS national championship loss to Alabama.
Despite Ewers' injury, Texas could have won if not for a few missed opportunities. Xavier Worthy dropped Ewers’ perfectly thrown pass into the end zone on the opening drive. “Smokey the Cannon” prematurely fired its charge to celebrate the near score, but the ball popped out of Worthy’s hands. Texas settled for a field goal. The Longhorns missed a chip-shot field goal before halftime and nearly got Young to the ground for a safety in the third quarter. If any of those plays go in Texas’ favor, the outcome is flipped.
Championships aren’t won in September, which is fortunate for Alabama, because this didn’t look like a championship team. Although, you could convince me Texas will seriously contend for a Big 12 Championship – if Ewers gets healthy quickly.
Alabama should breathe easier knowing it won’t have to face Texas again this season. The Tide doesn’t want more of that Big 12 smoke.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Also, check out his podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered, or access exclusive columns via the SEC Unfiltered newsletter.