Garrett Gilbert

Garrett Gilbert:

Two days before the national championship game, Texas freshman Garrett Gilbert prophetically talked about how he reminds himself every week that he is one play away from the being the Longhorns quarterback.

Five offensive plays into the Bowl Championship Series title game against Alabama, that's exactly what Gilbert was with Colt McCoy sidelined with an injured shoulder.

An offense that was third in the nation in scoring with 40.7 points per game was being operated by a true freshman with 26 career throws and no passing touchdowns instead of a fifth-year senior quarterback who is the NCAA all-time leader with 45 victories.

After struggling for almost three quarters, Gilbert showed resiliency and almost rallied his team to an improbable victory before the Longhorns fell to the Crimson Tide 37-21.

"It's a tough experience, it's a humbling experience," Gilbert said. "It's something you're not going to forget. Guys told me they were proud of me. Throughout the game, Colt was telling me to stay calm. There wasn't much time to think about it. I got thrown in and knew I was going to be counted on by my teammates to step up."

Gilbert's stats, 15-of-40 passing for 186 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions, don't tell the entire story. His play after a horrific start put the Longhorns on the verge of surprising Alabama and giving the school its fifth national championship.

"We came in well prepared. After Colt got hurt it limited what we could do," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "I am proud of how we fought. Can you imagine being put out there against this defense in this setting?"

Projected to be McCoy's replacement in September, Gilbert's promotion came eight months early. It came in a pressure-filled situation against a defense that led the nation in fewest points allowed.

Gilbert struggled early. His first completion was to running back Tre' Newton for minus-4 yards. That was his only successful throw in the first half. His second interception before the break was returned for a touchdown by Marcell Dareus and gave the Crimson Tide a 24-6 lead at halftime.

Gilbert found his rhythm throwing to the player that was McCoy's roommate and security blanket. Sixth-year senior Jordan Shipley became the school's all-time leading receiver in the game with 10 catches for 122 yards.

Shipley got behind the Alabama defense and Gilbert found him for a 44-yard touchdown with 1:31 left in the third quarter to make the score 24-13.

Gilbert went to Shipley five times on a fourth-quarter drive that ended when the duo connected for 28-yard score. A two-point conversion passcut the deficit to three.

"Everybody believed we could win the game. It's been that way since I've been here," Shipley said. "To come back, especially with the play before halftime, everybody fought hard and we just came up short."

The Texas defense held on the next possession, giving Gilbert one final chance on the Texas 7-yard line and three minutes to get in field-goal range or better.

After an Alabama holding penalty, Gilbert fumbled while being sacked. It was recovered by the Tide's Courtney Upshaw. Three plays later, Mark Ingram scored.

It was a disappointing end for the Longhorns. Using their snub in the Big 12 South as inspiration, they made it all the way to championship game only to lose their most-important player when they needed him most.

Gilbert's play in the second half showed that they have an heir to McCoy's crown.

"Garrett Gilbert stepped in and played as good as he can play," McCoy said. "He did a tremendous job."

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