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Bryce Young’s Dazzling Late Effort Snuffs Texas’s Bid at Glory

After sputtering for most of the day, the reigning Heisman winner reminded everyone how good he is.

AUSTIN, Texas — Sometimes, elite athletes cannot explain their own moves. They are incapable of understanding their own innate ability. They can’t tell you how they made this play or that, how they did something that no normal person could ever do.

That’s why, seated before a hoard of media members, Bryce Young was stumped.

“I can’t tell you,” he said. “It’s instinct.”

Instinct is why top-ranked Alabama survived an incredible scare from Texas on Saturday in the sweltering heat of Darrel K. Royal Stadium—a 20–19 thriller that ended with a 33-yard, game-winning field goal from kicker Will Reichard.

Bryce Young is pumped up in celebration

Young threw for 213 yards against Texas, but saved his best for last.

Instinct set up the field goal. Innate ability beat Burnt Orange. Mr. Heisman delivered.

That’s what happened here, even if the man himself can’t explain it.

Young and the Crimson Tide’s struggling offense leaped to life in the final minutes of the Week 2 game. He led Bama on two go-ahead scoring drives in the fourth quarter—one ending in a touchdown with 8:29 left and the latter on Reichard’s field goal with 10 ticks on the clock.

On that final march, with 30 seconds left, he did the seemingly impossible. He evaded a blitzing cornerback for what could have been a game-ending sack, squatting low to the ground and allowing Texas defensive back Ryan Watts to fly over the top of him. And then there went Young, jetting some 20 yards down the field to put the Tide into prime field-goal territory.

But how?

“I knew I couldn’t get sacked,” Young said. “I couldn’t go down.”

All Young did in the fourth quarter was complete 15 of 19 attempts for 136 yards. At one point, he completed at least seven consecutive throws. He stood in a collapsing pocket and fired a shot over the middle. He tossed a completion off of his backfoot. He scrambled left and then he scrambled right.

“When his best was needed, he was really good,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said afterward.

Because he sprung to life, the Tide (2–0) survived against the 20-point underdog Longhorns (1–1). It left more than 100,000 mostly Texas fans in tears afterward, streaming out of the stadium and having nightmarish flashbacks to the 2009 title game loss to the Tide.

In that game, Colt McCoy was knocked out in the first quarter. In this one, Texas starter Quinn Ewers, the five-star prospect who spent his first three drives carving through Saban’s defense, left the game with a clavicle injury and never returned. He missed the final three quarters.

“They did it again,” says one Texas fan while taking a sad elevator to the ground floor. “In the national championship game, they knocked out our quarterback too.”

Ewers was 9 of 12 for 134 yards before Bama linebacker Dallas Turner fell on top of him during the second-to-last play of the first quarter.

For more than a decade now, Texas fans have wondered about their team’s prospects if McCoy would have played the entire game of that tile bout. And now, 13 years later, they have a new question.

What if Ewers hadn’t gone down?

Such is life, such is football. Texas has only itself to blame. The Longhorns missed a 20-yard field goal to close the second half (it was partially blocked), dropped a touchdown pass in the first quarter, dropped an interception in the second and had to settle for three more field goals in the red zone.

The Saban protégé, Texas coach Steve Sarkisian, failed to best the master despite one of the master’s worse days. In 15 years, no Saban-coached Alabama team had more penalties in a game than Alabama did in Austin Saturday: 15 (for 100 yards).

“Undisciplined,” Saban scowled afterward.

The crowd had an impact. Texas students were camped outside the stadium overnight. Despite the 11 a.m. kickoff, they packed into the place in record fashion: 105,213. They were loud, proud and at times shook the stadium.

“This is like playing an SEC game on the road,” said Saban. “They’re going to be in the SEC. If they were in the SEC now, they’d probably be in the top half of the league.”

Bama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. described the environment here as the loudest and craziest he’s witnessed in his college career. He’s a junior who plays in the SEC and has competed in two national championship games.

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It was that electric. It was that fantastic. And it was hot—my God, was it hot. By the game’s end, the field temperature (it is artificial turf) was 118 degrees.

Afterward, in the postgame news conference, even Terry Saban jabbed her husband. “You look like you lost 10 pounds,” she laughed.

And off Saban went, ushered into the locker room to cool off and celebrate a stunning performance from his starting quarterback—a legendary late-game outing that will go down in Bama lore.

The comeback began early in the fourth. There he was, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner in control of arguably the most talented offense in the country, his team trailing on the road at an unranked Texas team and his struggles partly to blame for the mess. He’d been inaccurate, clearly flustered and unable to move his unit against the burnt orange on the other side of the line.

The heat was sweltering, the fans were loud and the situation was dire. Alabama’s undefeated season seemed lost, its energy zapped by the searing Texas sun.

And then came what many would expect from Mr. Heisman. Still, few can explain.

“Why is he so good?” Saban said, repeating the question. “If I could actually tell you that, I don’t know if I’d be doing this and this is a pretty good job I’ve got. But I’d have a better one.”

The jokes aside, Saban proceeded to actually give a long-winded, telling answer. Young studies and prepares well. He understands the defense. He reads their protections. He protects himself. He knows how and when to get rid of the ball quickly, his coach said. He’s athletic enough to extend plays. And, oh yeah, he’s instinctive.

“He plays quarterback like a point guard plays basketball,” he said.

So many games boil down to a play or two. One kick. One catch. One block or tackle. This one had all of them. And Mr. Heisman delivered one of the final moves —the squat heard ’round college football. He avoided the devastating sack, raced down field and served up victory.

“I was trying to do whatever I could,” he said.

If he can’t explain it, so be it.

More College Football:

• CFB World Reacts to Texas’s Upset Bid
• Sarkisian Responds to Texas’s Heartbreaking Loss
• Saban Heated When Bama Players Do ‘Horns Down’