TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Throughout the game, it felt inevitable.
When Jalen Milroe threw his first interception on the opening drive, you could feel the tension rise for Alabama fans inside a packed Bryant-Denny Stadium. Almost instantly, the momentum shifted. The Texas fans who made the trip from Austin – of which there were many – started to come alive and realize that an upset was a real possibility.
But after the first mistake was all said and done, Texas had come away with just three points. Even heading into halftime, it felt like the Crimson Tide had just come out slow. Receivers were dropping passes and Milroe looked a tad more cautious after his mistake. Then came the flashbacks to last year’s game in Austin.
Penalties started to accrue for Alabama on both sides of the ball, including a number of self-inflicted wounds. A pair of illegal snaps, offsides, holding, a facemask, lineman down field and not one, but two pass interference calls. When the final whistle blew, the Tide had racked up 10 penalties total for 90 yards. Not quite as egregious as last season’s 15 penalty – and school record breaking – performance, but enough to make any coach – much less Nick Saban – pull their hair out.
But even with all that piled on and Texas continuing to make plays down the stretch, Alabama was down just four points early in the fourth when the Tide took over on offense. On 1st & 10, Tommy Rees called a pass and Milroe dropped back in the pocket. Even before he released the ball, you could see what was coming from a mile away. DB Jerrin Thompson jumped in front of the ball and nearly returned it for a pick-six.
The Texas faithful – already rowdy – now knew that an upset wasn’t just possible: it was inevitable.
Milroe would finish Saturday’s loss – which was the first double-digit home loss for Alabama in 20 years – with two interceptions and two touchdowns on 14-27 passing. While many will be quick to blame the young Texas native for the loss, it wasn’t entirely on the QB.
Even after throwing the second interception, Milroe was able to lead a drive down the field and score to give Alabama life. According to Saban, it was the reason he was never pulled from the game.
“When he put the drive together to go down the field and score when we got ahead, I thought that gave him a lot of confidence. But we never, ever discussed it,” Saban said.
Looking back, the most vivid image from Saturday’s shocking loss wasn’t the heartbreaking interception or the final whistle. Nor was it Quinn Ewers saying that the gameplan was to “make them quit” after the game or former Alabama running back Keilan Robinson running in front of the section of Tide recruits and shouting “all y’all come to Texas.”
The most vivid image came long after many of the Crimson Tide faithful had vacated the stands of their once impenetrable fortress. The hallowed grounds where Alabama had lost just one of its last 53 games – to national champion LSU in 2019. A large pack of Texas fans – wearing the signature burnt orange – celebrated as they waived the Longhorn flag. Chants of “SEC! SEC!” echoed throughout the now empty stands.
Are they back? Only time will tell. Even Ewers – who was prompted to say those three notorious words by ESPN’s Holly Rowe – wouldn’t say. But one thing is certain.
This one just meant more.
— Nicholas Pursley (@nicholaspursley) September 10, 2023
Nicholas Pursley is the Sports Director at WVUA-FM and serves as the senior football writer covering Alabama. He also co-hosts The Low Tide on 90.7 FM from 7-8 p.m. CT on Sundays. You can follow him on X @nicholaspursley.