Colt McCoy returned to the sideline but not to the game for No. 2 Texas and his backup, Garrett Gilbert, gave the Longhorns hope for a comeback with a touchdown pass that cut No. 1 Alabama's lead to 24-13 going into the fourth quarter of the BCS national championship game Thursday night.
After Gilbert hit Jordan Shipley down the middle for a 44-yard score with 1:31 left in the third quarter, Texas got the ball right back with an onside kick. But the Crimson Tide defense responded by forcing a three-and-out.
With McCoy out of the game with a right shoulder injury, the Tide ripped Texas with a 24-point second quarter to take an 18-point lead into halftime.
McCoy, who was knocked out of his last college game on Texas' fifth offensive play, rejoined his teammates on the sideline in the third quarter.
The Longhorns gathered near their sideline before their second possession of the second half and McCoy moved into the middle. He went around the huddle, smacking his teammates shoulder pads and trying to encourage a comeback.
He wore a headset on the sideline and tried to give guidance to Gilbert when the freshman came off the field.
Crimson Tide defensive end Marcell Dareus ended McCoy's night with a big hit early in the first quarter and capped the second-quarter outburst with a huge play.
Dareus intercepted a tipped shovel pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown with 3 seconds left in the half to make it 24-6.
The Tide players bounded off the field at halftime in complete control and in position to capture the school's first national title since 1992.
The Crimson Tide started the game with two special teams mistakes in its own territory, but without McCoy running its spread offense Texas could only turn those gaffes into two field goals and a 6-0 lead.
Gilbert replaced McCoy and was 1 for 10 for minus-4 yards with two interceptions in the half. In the third quarter, he went 6 for 18 for 100 yards.
McCoy left after taking a shot from Dareus on an option keeper that was stopped at the line. The All-America quarterback was checked out by trainers on the sideline before walking to the tunnel with his helmet off but the rest of his pads on.
While Texas played without its Heisman finalist -- and the winningest quarterback in NCAA history -- Alabama's first Heisman winner didn't seem slowed down a bit by the banquet circuit.
Ingram ran for 90 yards on 13 carries in the first half and gave Alabama a 7-6 lead with a 2-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second quarter.
Heisman Trophy winners have not fared well in the BCS title game, coming out on the losing end six times in seven tries.
Ingram's freshman backup, Trent Richardson, provided the most exciting play of the first half. Richardson took a handoff up the middle, received a wipe-out block by All-American guard Mike Johnson and sprinted untouched 49 yards for a touchdown with 7:59 left that made it 14-6.
After All-America kicker Leigh Tiffin booted a 26-yard field goal for Alabama with 33 seconds left, Texas planned to play it safe with a shovel pass.
But intended receiver D.J. Monroe got swallowed up in traffic, the ball deflected off his hands, then off an Alabama lineman and into Dareus' hands.
Dareus broke a tackle, scooted into the end zone and tossed the ball away, drawing a penalty that hardly mattered.
The Texas defense, led by linebacker Sergio Kindle, gave the Longhorns a chance by smothering Alabama in the third quarter, not allowing a first down and keying in on Ingram.
The stocky sophomore was held to 2 yards on three carries in the third quarter.
McCoy-Gilbert Transition Came Early for Longhorns
Colt McCoy had 60 minutes left to cap his incredible career with the only accomplishment he really ever cared about, a national championship.
Four minutes into the big game, he was done -- KO'd by a shoulder injury. McCoy returned to the sideline, and traded his helmet for a headset.
The Longhorns needed McCoy more than ever. Texas lost 37-21, but the Longhorns will always have some sweet memories along with the bitterness of failing to win it all and seeing McCoy's magnificent career end with pain and tears.
"I love this game, I have a passion for this game. I've done everything I can to contribute to this team and we made it this far," McCoy said. "I would have given, I'd have given everything I had to be out there with my team."
McCoy was injured on Texas' opening drive, on just the fifth snap.
He kept the ball on an option to his left and was hit square by lineman Marcell Dareus for no gain. McCoy got up and appeared to be OK, but went to the sideline as Gilbert ran in and called timeout.
The school never specified the injury, but it really didn't matter. The only thing that counted was that No. 12 was done.
"I really have no pain in my arm, I just couldn't feel my arm," McCoy said. "I'm not in pain, my arm's dead. It feels like I slept on my arm, woke up and it's dead."
Coach Mack Brown figured his program would be in good hands next season, when he turns the offense over the Gilbert. Now he knows it.
Problem was, the transition came one game and eight months sooner than the any of them wanted.
"Garrett Gilbert stepped in and played as good as he can play," McCoy said. "He did a tremendous job."
Austin Quiet, Disappointed After Texas Loss
This time, the University of Texas tower didn't light up orange.
A campus and city geared up to celebrate a football national championship instead settled into quiet melancholy after No. 2 Texas lost to No. 1 Alabama 37-21 in the BCS title game Thursday night.
Police who were stationed near the tower to manage postgame celebrations instead milled around their patrol cars or stayed inside to stay out of the cold.
At Cover 3, a north Austin restaurant and sports bar that was packed when the game started, was half empty by the time the final seconds ticked off. Many fans had left at the start of the third quarter when Texas was trailing 24-6 and it became clear injured quarterback Colt McCoy would not return to the game.