Players in title game like BCS system
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Alabama coach Nick Saban is one of six active coaches to win two national titles — but the first to do it at different schools, having also won the 2003 BCS title with LSU.
“He’s just a coach that is driven, and he has a vision, and he tries to do his best to instill his characteristics in us,” Alabama tailback Mark Ingram said.
The other active coaches with two titles are Penn State’s Joe Paterno; Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson, who won them at Miami; Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops; USC’s Pete Carroll; and Florida’s Urban Meyer.
ANDERS’ FINALE: Eryk Anders came into Alabama without receiving much attention, but leaves in a far different situation.
The lightly recruited linebacker’s blindside hit on Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert knocked the ball loose near the Longhorns’ goal line. Courtney Upshaw recovered to set up Ingram’s 1-yard touchdown run to make it a two-score game with 2:01 left.
The forced fumble “was really the difference in the game,” Saban said.
Anders, a San Antonio native, was mostly overlooked in the recruiting process before then-Tide coach Mike Shula came in with a late scholarship offer. He had only 32 tackles in his first three seasons combined but started 10 games as a senior and more than doubled that total.
The final play was the capper on an unlikely success story. He considered transferring after the 2007 season over lack of playing time, but stuck it out at his father’s urging.
Later that night, retired Air Force Capt. Gayle Anders died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack. He was 65.
BCS BACKERS: With the BCS ramping up efforts to improve its public image, it might want to consider bringing in Alabama nose guard Terrence Cody as a spokesman.
The 350-pound All-American is no fan of the idea of a major college football playoff.
“That’s stupid,” Cody said earlier this week. “I don’t think there should be any playoff. Why should there be a playoff? I mean, in the NFL they’re getting paid to play off and stuff.”
Fellow Tide All-American Javier Arenas also gave a thumbs down to a playoff.
Alabama guard Mike Johnson was lukewarm to the idea, but could understand why others might want the BCS to expand.
“I can’t complain, coming from one of the better BCS conference,” Johnson said. “Anytime you’re from the SEC and you go undefeated, you know you’re going to be in (the BCS championship) game. It seems we always get the benefit of the doubt.
“There are some good teams out there that need a shot. Utah proved it to us last year. Maybe something in between. Maybe a plus-one game. But I don’t know, a playoff might add too many games.”
Texas receiver Malcolm Williams was also in the no-playoff camp.
“I really don’t think so, the way it is is fine,” he said. “Even if there was a playoff there would be errors.”
Longhorns defensive lineman Lamarr Houston is a playoff supporter and even offered a way to do it. He said the month most teams spend waiting to play in a BCS game could be used for playoff games.
“I’m sure if you had a couple extra bye weeks in there, maybe two weeks after the season give (the players) a break and then have a championship game in mid-January, I don’t think it would be much different from playing in a bowl game,” he said. “It’d benefit all of college football more and you could have a true champion with no complaints.”
ROSE BOWL REDUX: Before the 2006 Rose Bowl, when Texas faced a No. 1 Southern California team that was seeking its third straight national title and had two Heisman Trophy winners, Longhorns coach Mack Brown stood on the field in awe of his opponents.
He saw all the talented players on the sideline and “all the good stuff about SC,” such as their band and the white horse. He was still mesmerized when his offensive coordinator, Greg Davis, approached him.
“My gosh, they’ve got a great-looking football team. Look at those guys,” Brown told Davis.
Then Davis patted Brown on the shoulder and said, “Well, turn around. Yours look pretty good, too.”
Laughing at the memory, Brown said: “I thought that was pretty good. I’m not sure that we ever give ourselves enough credit. We’ve got a good team, too.”
SIDELINED: One key member of Alabama’s defense was reduced to a spectator role for the title game.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who opened the season as half of arguably the nation’s top linebacker duo, has been sidelined since tearing a ligament in his left knee in Game 4 against Arkansas. He wasn’t surprised his teammates were able to make it to Pasadena without him.
“There was never a doubt in my mind that with me going down or with (backup defensive lineman) Damion Square going down, that we wouldn’t be here,” Hightower said. “This team doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t fall on just one player making all the plays. It’s a team effort. I think they showed up a lot, showed up in the Florida game.”
Playing alongside Rolando McClain, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Hightower gave Alabama a pair of big, fast inside ‘backers. Saban called him the team’s best pass rusher. He’s used to watching now, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
“It’s always tough knowing that you should be playing and having to sit on the sidelines and watch these guys play as hard as they do and watching them go out to practice while I’m at rehab,” Hightower said.
On Thursday night, Hightower wore his No. 30 jersey but wasn’t in full uniform.
FRIENDS & FOES: In addition to the mentor-student relationship between Saban and Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, there are a lot of other ties that bind these staffs.
Muschamp and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart were defensive backs together at Georgia in 1994, then Muschamp gave Smart his first real coaching job.
Texas running backs coach Major Applewhite was Saban’s offensive coordinator in 2007, his first year at Alabama.
Tide linebackers coach James Willis worked for Muschamp for two years at Auburn.
Both equipment managers went to college together.
Beyond football, Alabama’s school president spent 35 years working for the University of Texas system.
BIG CROWD: The game drew 94,906 to the Rose Bowl, pushing college football’s overall postseason attendance to 1,769,886, a drop of 708 from a year ago.