PASADENA, Calif. — Alabama knocked Colt McCoy out early in the game, and held off a late Texas rally to win the BCS Championship Game 31-21 Thursday night.
McCoy, who injured his right (throwing) shoulder on the Longhorns' first possession, returned to the sideline but not to the game for No. 2 Texas. His backup, Garrett Gilbert, gave the Longhorns hope for a comeback with a touchdown pass that cut No. 1 Alabama's lead to 24-13 going into the fourth quarter, and another Gilbert touchdown pass and two-point conversion got Texas within 24-21. But Alabama recovered a fumble inside the Texas 10 and converted it into a touchdown for a 31-21 lead, then scored again with 47 seconds left.
After Gilbert hit Jordan Shipley down the middle for a 44-yard score with 1:31 left in the third quarter, Texas got the ball right back with an onside kick. But the Crimson Tide defense responded by forcing a three-and-out.
With McCoy out, the Tide ripped Texas with a 24-point second quarter to take a 24-6 lead into halftime.
McCoy, who was knocked out of his last college game on Texas' fifth offensive play, rejoined his teammates on the sideline in the third quarter.
The Longhorns gathered near their sideline before their second possession of the second half and McCoy moved into the middle. He went around the huddle, smacking his teammates shoulder pads and trying to encourage a comeback.
He wore a headset on the sideline and tried to give guidance to Gilbert when the freshman came off the field.
Tide defensive end Marcell Dareus ended McCoy's night with a big hit early in the first quarter and capped the second-quarter outburst with a huge play. Dareus intercepted a tipped shovel pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown with three seconds left in the half to make it 24-6.
The Tide players bounded off the field at halftime in complete control and in position to capture the school's first national title since 1992.
Texas coach Mack Brown said he called the shovel pass because he hoped to get past midfield and have a chance to throw into the end zone.
"It's about as safe a play as there is,'' Brown said.
The Crimson Tide started the game with two special teams mistakes in its own territory, but without McCoy running its spread offense Texas could only turn those gaffes into two field goals and a 6-0 lead.
Gilbert replaced McCoy and was 1 for 10 for minus-4 yards with two interceptions in the half. In the third quarter, he went 6 for 18 for 100 yards.
McCoy left after taking a shot from Dareus on an option keeper that was stopped at the line. The All-America quarterback was checked out by trainers on the sideline before walking to the tunnel with his helmet off but the rest of his pads on.
While Texas played without its Heisman finalist — and the winningest quarterback in NCAA history — Alabama's first Heisman winner didn't seem slowed down a bit by the banquet circuit. Mark Ingram ran for 90 yards on 13 carries in the first half and gave Alabama a 7-6 lead with a 2-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second quarter.
Heisman Trophy winners have not fared well in the BCS title game, coming out on the losing end six times in seven tries.
Ingram's freshman backup, Trent Richardson, provided the most exciting play of the first half. Richardson took a handoff up the middle, received a wipe-out block by All-American guard Mike Johnson and sprinted 49 yards for a touchdown with 7:59 left that made it 14-6.
The Texas defense, led by linebacker Sergio Kindle, gave the Longhorns a chance by smothering Alabama in the third quarter, not allowing a first down.