AUSTIN, Texas — Despite 15 penalties and a poor showing from its offensive line, No. 1 Alabama was able to avoid an upset and beat unranked Texas 20-19 on a last-minute field goal Saturday.
While Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban praised his team’s resilience, he nonetheless criticized their performance, saying they didn’t play ‘Alabama football’ for most of the game. .
“We had way too many penalties,” Saban said. “We shot ourselves in the foot quite a bit.”
Alabama’s 15 penalties were the most committed under Saban and one less than the school record set in 2002.
The offensive line appeared particularly shaken by a record 105,213 fans inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Quarterback and defending Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young has been sacked twice and suffered 12 retirements.
“I think the energy in the stadium created some unusual mistakes on both sides,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “But I’d like to think maybe we have a small part to play in that.”
Through the first three quarters, Young was 1 of 8 for 7 yards under pressure. In the fourth quarter, he completed 3 of 4 passes under pressure, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Young, who threw for 213 yards and a touchdown, ran the ball seven times for 38 yards. But no run was more crucial than his 20-yard run into Texas territory with less than 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The play set up a game-winning field goal from 33 yards by Will Reichard.
“At the end of the day, they’re the best team in the country,” Sarkisian said of the Crimson Tide. “In a weird way, we feel pretty good about ourselves, sort of where we are in the state of our program.
“Big teams find a way. I thought we found a way to take the lead and I thought we found a way to win. So I don’t think we’re that far.”
Reichard’s kick kept Alabama’s non-conference 53-game regular-season winning streak alive. The last time the Tide lost a non-conference game during the regular season was in 2007 – Saban’s first season in Bama.
“Well, we didn’t block them up front very well, we didn’t protect ourselves very well, we put pressure in the pocket,” Saban said. “It wasn’t very efficient to kick the ball. People weren’t open. Probably needed to do a better job from a planning point of view, the way they played us. So, uh, you know it all comes down to execution.”
Saban seemed to blame distractions for his team’s lackluster performance.
“When you’re playing games like this, you have to focus on what’s in front of you,” he said. “You can’t worry about all the other stuff that’s going on – what people say, what they say on ESPN, what y’all [the media] let’s say, how favored you are in the game. You have to focus on what’s in front of you. You’re an offensive lineman, he’s the guy you need to block. If you’re a receiver, this is the guy you need to beat. If you’re a quarterback, you have to take what the defense gives you. If you’re a runner, you need to hit the hole and make the right cuts.
“So we didn’t do any of that like we should. So it wasn’t just one thing.”
Alabama closed as a 21.5-point favorite over Texas in Caesar’s Sportsbook and was around -1,600 to win the game outright.
“Let’s call it what it is: no one gave us a chance in this game,” Sarkisian said. “None of you, none of the national media. Nobody gave us a chance. But we believed in our dressing room that we could go and win this game. And we played like a team that believed we could win this game. And we played like a team that thought they were going to win the game.”
Texas lost starting quarterback Quinn Ewers to a left collarbone injury late in the first quarter after completing 9 of 12 passes for 134 yards.
The injury forced third-year sophomore Hudson Card off the bench. He completed 14 of 22 passes for 158 yards and no touchdowns.
“I thought the quarterback who got out of the game [Ewers] was playing really well, made some really good shots. He’s a very talented guy,” Saban said. “But I think the quarterback who came into the game did a really good job as well. He scrambled and extended some plays that the other guy might not have been able to do in critical situations because he’s very athletic.”
Texas star running back Bijan Robinson finished with 130 total yards on offense (73 receiving, 57 rushing) and a touchdown.
Texas (1-1) hosts UTSA next Saturday, while Alabama (2-0) hosts Louisiana Monroe.
ESPN’s Dave Wilson and David Purdum contributed to this report.
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