Alabama escaped Austin with a 20-19 victory over Texas on Saturday. The one-point win was much closer than anticipated before the game kicked off, as the Crimson Tide were favored by 20 or more points by the oddsmakers. Survive and advance is a key part of any college football season, but it’s clear Alabama has things to work on, and Texas is an improved team in coach Steve Sarkisian’s second year. An injury to starting quarterback Quinn Ewers hindered the Longhorns the rest of the way, but Sarkisian dialed up enough successful plays on offense to give the team a chance. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young was the difference-maker for coach Nick Saban once again. With the game on the line deep in the fourth quarter, Young made a couple of clutch plays to put the Crimson Tide into field goal range for the winning kick.
Here are the key takeaways from Saturday’s game:
Alabama Survives Texas: Key Takeaways from Win Over Longhorns
Bryce Young Delivers Again
Young stepped up with the game on the line and delivered a clutch drive to lead Alabama to a game-winning field goal. With the Crimson Tide trailing 19-17 with under two minutes remaining, Young guided the offense on a nine-play, 61-yard drive to get into position for a game-winning field goal. The junior ended the day with 27 completions for only 213 yards and a touchdown but came up big in the fourth quarter – and especially on the final drive.
Quinn Ewers’ Injury Changed The Game
The Texas offense suffered a major setback in the first quarter when Ewers was lost due to a shoulder injury. The redshirt freshman quarterback started nine of 12 for 134 yards and gave the offense the ability to push the ball downfield and test Alabama’s cornerbacks. Ewers did not return and Sarkisian indicated he would have an MRI to evaluate a clavicle injury. It’s hard to say the outcome would’ve been different if Ewers had played all four quarters. However, there’s little doubt Ewers’ injury significantly altered the offense. Hudson Card played valiantly off the bench, completing 14 of 22 throws for 158 yards, but the offense didn’t operate at the same level.
Missed Opportunities Hurt Texas
It’s a cliché for sure, but you can’t beat Alabama by kicking field goals and not finishing drives in the red zone. Texas kicked five field goals (four makes) and scored just one touchdown. The Crimson Tide reached the end zone two times and converted both of their field goals.
Texas Has a Much-Improved Defense
Defense was a major concern after Texas allowed more than six yards a play and 30 points a game last season. However, although the sample size is small just two games into the season, this unit seems to be improved. Alabama was limited to 374 yards (5.9 yards per play) and converted just five of 15 third-down conversions. The Longhorns did not allow a pass play longer than 23 yards and 81 of the Crimson Tide’s rushing yards came on one carry.
Alabama’s Offensive Line and Receiving Corps Need Work
There’s little doubt Saban and his staff will be glad to leave Austin with a victory. However, the Crimson Tide have two key areas to work on if they want to win the national title. The receiving corps without John Metchie III and Jameson Williams is a work in progress, and the offensive line is still too inconsistent. Alabama has the right talent in both spots. How long will it take this group to get on track?
Penalties Were a Big Problem for Alabama
Add penalties to the list of things Saban and his staff needs to clean up this week. The Crimson Tide had a whopping 15 penalties on Saturday. The 15 flags were the most against Alabama since Saban took over in 2007. Although it didn’t catch up to Alabama this week, limiting those in the future is crucial once SEC play arrives.
Steve Sarkisian Has Texas on the Right Track
No, we aren’t going to declare Texas “back.” However, this showing – even in a loss – is what Sarkisian needed. The Longhorns were a disappointing 5-7 in his debut but appear to be an improved team after two weeks. Of course, a season-long injury to Ewers could alter this point. But if Ewers gets healthy, and the defense continues to improve, Texas can easily exceed last year’s five wins.