Longhorns lose heartbreaker to Alabama

There was a lot that went right for Texas in its upset bid against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. After all, the Longhorns entered the game as 20-point underdogs, lost their starting quarterback in the first quarter and still had multiple opportunities to win against the No. 1 team in the country. The Texas defensive line did a great job of winning battles up front and making it tough for the Alabama offense to get in any kind of rhythm, and the Longhorns as a team mostly avoided costly penalties and the offense committed zero turnovers.

Yet it still was not enough to get the job done as the Tide came away with the 20-19 win, so let's dive into why Texas couldn't finish the job and hand Nick Saban his third loss in four meetings against a former assistant since the start of the 2021 season. 

Quinn Ewers looked ready before exit

The high-profile transfer quarterback from Ohio State did not officially win the job as Texas' starter until Aug. 19, and the time between his arrival in Austin, Texas, and that announcement brought some skepticism as to what to expect from the former five-star prospect from Southlake, Texas. That skepticism was put to bed early as Ewers came out poised and confident against a ferocious Alabama defense, completing 9 of his first 12 passes for 134 yards (11.2 per attempt) and showcasing his arm strength on a couple of deep balls that would make any scout weep with joy. 

Ewers was playing with confidence and the Texas offense was moving the ball well. Then it all hit a speed bump that not only impacted the game but potentially the Longhorns' season. 

Under pursuit by both Will Anderson Jr. and Dallas Turner, Ewers evaded Anderson and then was driven into the ground by Turner. Ewers suffered what Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said was a "clavicle sprain" after the game, and after going to the locker room for X-rays, he returned to the sideline in street clothes with a sling on his arm. 

That put Hudson Card, Ewers' competition throughout spring practice and early fall camp, into the QB1 role for the remainder of the game. Card brought a steady approach to the position, completing 14 of 22 passes for 158 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, but the ceiling for this Texas offense is different without Ewers in the lineup. 

Offense couldn't make the most of scoring chances 

Even after Ewers' injury, Texas was still able to move the ball against Alabama with some success. Where the Longhorns struggled, both before and after Ewers' injury, was turning those scoring opportunities into touchdowns. More than half of Texas' full offensive drives -- 6 of 11, not counting the final play of the game -- ended in a scoring position, and yet of those six drives the Longhorns had just 19 points to show for their efforts. Those six opportunities produced just one touchdown, four field goals and a missed field goal just before halftime when the score was 10-10. 

In a one-point loss of this magnitude, kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns on five different occasions looms large over the result. The missed field goal certainly carries significance; it would have made the difference in the game. But just as notable was Card taking a 7-yard loss on a Will Anderson sack on third-and-3 from the 24-yard line with less than two minutes left to play. If Card can get that first down instead of taking the sack, then the game might have been decided in Texas' favor. 

Credit Bert Auburn for nailing a 49-yard, go-ahead field goal when put in a tough spot -- but that tough spot could have been avoided with better execution once Texas got into scoring range. 

Texas couldn't wrangle Bryce Young 

Breaking down the film in team meetings will bring some criticism from coaches for not being able to wrap up the Alabama quarterback, but there are also some pieces of this that have to be attributed to Young's athleticism and ability to diagnose what's happening on the field in real time. Whether it's credit to Young or blame for the Texas defense -- which, again, was mostly a positive and a strength for the Longhorns on Saturday -- it is undeniable that a major reason Texas was not able to upset Alabama is the late-game excellence of the Crimson Tide quarterback. 

Texas had mostly locked down Alabama's wide receivers and stuffed the run game, continued to put the Crimson Tide in third-down situations and still had to deal with Young using his legs to keep drives alive as he scampered for first downs. Texas had a couple of perfect blitzes called that left Young one-on-one with a surging Longhorns defender. However, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner escaped pressure and not only avoided a negative play but improved his team's position. 

Texas' defense had pretty much everything solved when it comes to shutting down an offense that put up 55 points in its season-opener, but wrangling No. 9 when the game was on the line did not work out for the upset hopefuls.

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