Smith: Title game marred by QB’s absence
In the world of sports, what-ifs and yeah-buts are as ingrained into the culture as final scores.
So, one can’t help but wonder if this year’s BCS National Championship will have an asterisk beside it.
Surely it will in the hearts and minds of Texas Longhorns football fans. How could it not?
Fact: Alabama won by 16 points.
Hypothetical scenario: Yeah, but what if Texas wasn’t shorthanded?
Colt McCoy, a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist who accounted for the majority of the Longhorns’ offense in 2009, was knocked out of the championship Thursday night in Pasadena, Calif., by Alabama, which rolled to a 37-21 victory and the program’s first national title since 1992.
Less than five minutes into the game, McCoy was pounded on a run and left the game with a right shoulder injury. He was never cleared to return.
That one carry was the senior’s only run of the game. He was in long enough to throw two passes.
McCoy’s final stat line: two pass attempts, two completions, nine yards; one carry, zero yards.
He was under center for exactly five of the Longhorns’ offensive plays. The other 72 snaps were taken by Garrett Gilbert — a freshman QB who played mop-up duty in some of Texas’ blowouts this season.
Gilbert looked nervous at times, unstable at others, on his way to completing 15 of 40 passes — two of those went for touchdowns, four were intercepted.
Here’s guessing McCoy would have fared — oh, I don’t know — amazingly better.
McCoy completed 70 percent of his passes in 2009, throwing for more than 3,500 yards and 27 touchdowns. Plus, he was a threat on the ground. As the team’s second-leading rusher, he had 348 yards and three touchdowns.
Of the team’s 5,897 yards this season, McCoy was responsible for 3,869. That’s 66 percent. Two-thirds of the offense.
Now, the Crimson Tide defensive unit was not comprised of slouches. In 2009, Bama was second-best in the nation in four categories: rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense.
So, yeah, McCoy was bound to get hurried and dirtied if he hadn’t been injured.
But there’s no way he would have completed less than 40 percent of his passes (which is what Gilbert did). And McCoy wouldn’t have been rattled by a mistake or two, or even more.
The game could have swung in the Longhorns’ favor early with McCoy at the helm. What turned out to be a 6-0 lead with Gilbert in, could have been 14-0 with McCoy.
Would Alabama ever have recovered from a two-touchdown deficit?
Well, that’s a whole other argument.