TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Texas Longhorns talked, and they came tantalizingly close to backing it up on Saturday. 


In one of the sloppiest games of the Nick Saban era, Alabama relied on more road heroics from Bryce Young and a late boot off the leg of Will Reichard for its 20-19 victory in Austin. 


Perhaps the most apparent takeaway from the Crimson Tide’s performance is that it assuredly looked like the first true non-conference road game against a Power Five foe in a decade. 


The game started with Alabama receiving the opening kick. An 11-play drive ended in a field goal by Will Reichard from a whopping 52 yards out. Texas used effective passing to make it deep into Alabama territory, and Longhorn placekicker Bert Auburn was true from 26 to tie it at three points apiece.


On the very next offensive snap, Jase McClellan took a career-long rush 81 yards to the end zone. Texas answered again. They drove into red zone territory, and then the game changed once they made it inside the 10.


Starting quarterback Quinn Ewers had been brilliant until a first-and-goal throwaway, after which he was flattened by Dallas Turner. Turner was penalized, and Ewers exited the game with a left shoulder injury. He didn’t return, leaving 2021 starter Hudson Card to take the Longhorn offense the rest of the way. Star running back Bijan Robinson scored to cap the drive, but Texas had been dealt a massive loss.


For Longhorn faithful, it was an unpleasant reminder of the last time the two teams met, when Colt McCoy was forced out of the 2009 title game with a hurt shoulder.


The Longhorns possessed the ball last in the first half, and seemed destined for a score of some kind. With seconds to go and the ball inside the Alabama 10, head coach Steve Sarkisian made the safe call and elected to send out his special teams unit. Auburn’s kick from 20 yards would hook left because of a bad snap, sending the teams to the break knotted at 10 points.


The home team got on the board first in the second half with another short kick from Auburn. This would be a key, though, for the rest of the game: on two of its last three scores, Texas made it inside the 10 and had to settle for three. 


Before the field goal, though, there was a moment of confusion. During an Alabama possession, Bryce Young appeared to have been sacked for a safety. He got the ball out just before he hit the ground, and the officials called a roughing the passer foul on Texas with targeting. The crew later called off the fouls, and the play was ruled an incomplete pass. No safety.


Texas hit the ground running again in the final quarter when Auburn slid another chip shot between the uprights. Down by six, it was up to Young to lead the stagnant Alabama offense and make a statement.


He did.


In another 11-play drive, Young did what he does. He created plays and eventually found Jahmyr Gibbs for a seven-yard touchdown, Gibbs’s first in crimson and white. Alabama got the ball back after forcing a punt, but were held on fourth down and inches inside the 30 when Roydell Williams was tripped up. A great chance to put the game on ice had gone by the wayside.


Texas’s next entry into the scoring column came by way of the reliable Auburn, who was becoming a stalwart in the game’s special teams. This next kick was from 49 yards out after Card took a sack to set back the Longhorns’ field position. There was one minute and twenty-nine seconds on the clock. It was once again time for Young to lead the Crimson Tide offense.


He did.


The reigning Heisman winner completed four straight passes on the drive to get to the Texas 37. On the next play, he was about to take a soul-crushing sack, but ducked under the Longhorn blitz and used his wheels to pick up 20.


Reichard would later connect on a 33-yarder to take the lead. Texas’s attempt at a miracle with five seconds to go hit the turf. Alabama had gutted out an unlikely win.


Young went 27 of 39 passing for 213 yards and a touchdown. Leading the receiving charge was Gibbs, with nine catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. McClellan led all rushers with 97 yards; Robinson had 57. Card and Ewers combined for 292 passing yards. Alabama outgained Texas, 374-371. 


Alabama had 15 penalties across both sides of the football.


Alabama head coach Nick Saban put it bluntly when he said that his group had not played Alabama football for much of the game.


“There’s a tremendous amount of things that we can learn from as a team,” he said. “What I told the team is if you practice hard, the game is easy. If you don’t push yourself in practice, the game becomes hard.”


“If we’re gonna be the kind of team that we’re capable of being, we’re gonna have to play better down in and down out… Texas has a lot better team than people give them credit for. They’re gonna be in the SEC, and if they were in the SEC right now, they’d probably be in the top half of the league… in the end, when we had to make plays, the players did a great job of making the plays they needed to make. [Gotta give them an A for] perseverance, resiliency, ability to overcome adversity.”


Alabama is now 2-0 on the year and will return to Bryant-Denny Stadium next Saturday for a tilt against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. Kickoff is at 3 p.m. central time.