This century's most concise summary of winning football endured Saturday at sweaty, stuffy, oppressive Darrell K. Royal Stadium: If you've got a quarterback, you've got a chance. On a day when No. 1 Alabama played its worst game in forever, Bryce Young provided a compelling reminder of that mantra. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner owned the fourth quarter against Texas.
Eventually, that was enough on that day when the Crimson Tide played for long stretches like they knew they were three-touchdown favorites and didn't feel like putting in the work. Don't worry: Nick Saban had plenty to say about that after the game.
In the moment, all that mattered was Young being sterling while Texas' best quarterback was standing on the sidelines with his left arm the sling. Redshirt freshman Quinn Ewers appeared to be on the way to his own magical afternoon when he was knocked out following a late first-quarter hit by Bama linebacker Dallas Turner.
It's easy to imagine a comfortable Texas win had Ewers played through his second career start. The Ohio State transfer completed 9 of 12 passes for 134 yards with a big 46-yard toss to wide receiver Xavier Worthy, who was in the process of his own breakout performance.
The Longhorns rose up enough in the first meeting between the powerhouse programs in 12 years to get what many Orangebloods deemed success going into the game: progress.
"If that's the best team in the country," Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said, "we took then down to the wire. That should instill a lot of confidence."
Texas has been down for so long that moral victories, while not usually accepted, are perhaps defensible on this significant Saturday. Backup QB Hudson Card was game, limping for most of the game after being hit. Card had enough left to lead the 'Horns to a go-ahead 49-yard field goal from Bert Auburn with 1:29 left.
DKR was ready to explode. Headlines were prewritten: Auburn beats Alabama. After all, Auburn had scored 12 of Texas' 19 points in the game.
But it was Young who put the Tide on his back and got the desired, though dramatic, result. Alabama' Will Reichard nailed the eventual game-winning 33-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining in the 20-19 win.
That allowed Saban to avoid his first nonconference regular-season loss since his first year with the program (2007 vs. Louisiana-Monroe). That side-stepped an astounding 15 penalties, a record for a Saban-coached team in the SEC (Bama, LSU). That avoided a brilliant game plan by Texas defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski and sidekick Gary Patterson (a defensive analyst and former TCU coaching legend).
With his team trailing 16-10 just a couple minutes into the fourth quarter, Young completed 15 of his final 19 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown in the game's final 13 minutes. More importantly, he put the mostly sputtering offense in position for Reichard's kick. All 61 yards in the game-winning drive came via six completions on eight attempts by Young.
"Kind of took the game over," Saban said.
"We train for moments like this," linebacker Will Anderson Jr. said.
"We have no wavering," Young said.
Actually, there was plenty of wavering. It's just that Young wouldn't let the Tide collapse. His 213 yards (27 of 39 passing) were the third-fewest of his career since becoming starter last season. This coming off a campaign in which he won the Heisman passing for almost 5,000 yards and 47 touchdowns, an effort Alabama rode to a College Football Playoff National Championship appearance against Georgia that it led until the fourth quarter.
Young must now be mentioned as perhaps the best quarterback in Bama history. Time after time last season, his legs bailed out an inconsistent Alabama offensive line that gave up 41 sacks. Texas added two more Saturday, proof defenses are determined to not allow themselves to be part of back-to-back Young Heismans.
With time running out and his wide receivers not consistently coming through in the game, Young had a rebuttal.
"When you are put in these positions, you learn about yourself as a team," he said.
The 15 penalties committed by Bama were the most since 2022, back in the Dennis Franchione era. An Alabama kicker hadn't made a game-winning boot with less than 5 minutes remaining since 2006. Why would he? The Tide are usually comfortably ahead.
This one was supposed to be that way. In a meeting that was more about brands than backyard brawling, Alabama was a 20-point favorite. When Jace McClellan broke free for an 81-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, it looked like the rout was on.
Then Texas proved itself Bama's equal. At least. The DKR crowd kicked in causing four false starts by Tide offensive linemen. The secondary -- Saban's baby as its position coach -- got nailed for two pass interference penalties on consecutive plays (defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry). The Big 12 crew may have missed a few more.
Young's biggest play may have been avoiding a third-quarter safety. With the game tied 10-10, Texas' T'Vondre Sweat seemed to have sacked Young in the end zone. On the same play, 'Horns linebacker DeMarvion Overshown was called for roughing the passer and targeting.
None of that wound up to be accurate. A Big 12 referee overturned targeting and strangely negated the roughing call, explaining he was given the wrong information. (Try figuring that one out.) Young had avoided a safety when, in desperation. he flung the ball off Overshown's helmet as he rolled over Sweat's back for an incompletion before touching the ground.
It was gymnastic. It was athletic. It may have saved the game considering the way Texas as closing in, it would have gotten the ball right back on the safety in a low-scoring grinder of a game.
"Why is he so good? If I could actually tell you that, I don't know if I would be doing this," Saban said of Young. "This is a pretty good job I have. [Seriously], the guy studies, he prepares well for the game. He understands what the defense is in and what they're going to do … and he's very, very instinctive. He plays quarterback like a point guard in basketball."
That point guard is expanding his portfolio. As brilliant as Young may be on the field, his recent series of Dr. Pepper "Fansville" commercials prove the kid can act. They're legitimately funny.
That didn't matter much Saturday. All that mattered in that sweatbox stadium -- and to the Alabama dynasty -- was that the quarterback looked down that field late in the fourth quarter, his team trailing, and saw victory.
"That's where we love to be at," Young said.