With Win over Alabama, the Texas Football Rebirth Is Upon Us

With Win over Alabama, the Texas Football Rebirth Is Upon Us

Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) celebrates after a win over Alabama in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

As the minutes dwindled, the Alabama stands emptied. One after the next, fans of one of the greatest dynasties the sport has ever known drifted out of Bryant-Denny Stadium—the fog and the sheer shock of what had just unfolded lingering like some sort of football daze.

What Texas did against Alabama on Saturday night, however, wasn’t some sort of magical act. There were no football elixirs.

It was a dominating effort—albeit one with room for improvement—that came after years of unmet expectations.

Let’s not wait any longer. Let’s get it out of the way now.

Texas is indeed back.

The punchline is dead. The broken football program with tremendous resources is now fully functional once more. The win, a stunning 34-24 triumph over mighty Alabama, is the kind of victory that changes everything.

There was nothing fluky about it. This version of Texas, a team that was physically up for everything Alabama had to offer, has been in construction for years.

Quarterback Quinn Ewers has shown flashes since arriving in Austin before last season. In fact, he was brilliant against Alabama early in the team’s game last year before leaving with an injury.

On Saturday, his stardom reached a new threshold. Ewers finished with 349 passing yards and three touchdowns, posting a stat line few quarterbacks have ever posted against a Nick Saban defense.

It wasn’t just the stats. Ewers’ deep balls were a thing of beauty. He changed arm angles and often launched footballs deep into the night with only a flick of the wrist.

For as good as Ewers was, his stat line could have been better. Drops and inconsistent play from the Texas wideouts were a theme throughout the night. That’s not to say his vast array of weapons didn’t make key plays; they certainly did. It simply highlights that the Texas offense, for as good as it was, can be that much better.

Texas tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders (0) gets loose for a long gain against Alabama during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

Tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders along with wideouts Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy factored large in the game. When Ewers is given a clean pocket, there isn’t much an opposing defense can do to counter these three.

Defensively, however, is where Texas really broke out. The defensive line was superb, putting constant pressure on Jalen Milroe. While the Alabama offense was still able to generate a few big plays, the Longhorns defense, which has been at the center of the program’s struggles over the past 10 years, looked like a force.

It was a mix of players providing this support with varying levels of experience. Freshman linebacker Anthony Hill Jr., one of the best defensive players in the 2023 class, finished with 1.5 sacks and was applying constant pressure.

And his presence is perhaps where the general trajectory of the program starts to take shape. For Texas to win games like these, it had to add talent. While Austin has always been a popular recruiting destination, it has taken on renewed life under head coach Steve Sarkisian.

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian tracks his team from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

Under Sarkisian, a brilliant offensive mind, Texas has been active on the recruiting trail and the transfer portal to assemble the roster it has this year. There were signs of progress the last two seasons, although Texas ultimately stumbled each time it gained its footing.

Throughout those individual conquests, however, Sarkisian never delivered the kind of win he did on Saturday night.

It has been years and decades in the making. What came before it is a long, drown-out list of lost seasons and fumbled opportunities. “Texas is back” wasn’t truly coined after successes; it was regurgitated repeatedly when the Longhorns failed spectacularly.

Truthfully, the obsession over Texas’ journey to arrive here has overshadowed the progress being made. This program wasn’t resurrected in one night. But the fruits of the work and the regressions and now the evolution all poured out across 60 magnificent minutes.

In the eyes of many, Texas won’t truly be back until it competes for a national championship. Those expectations, while significant, seem fair given the program’s status among CFB elite.

At this point, given what we just witnessed, there’s no reason to believe Texas can’t do that. It must navigate a schedule that still has plenty of teeth. It must avoid the missteps against lesser competition that have plagued this program in the past. It must improve upon the miscues that could have cost it on Saturday night.

Suddenly, all of this is within its grasp. The young quarterback with the golden arm has the talent and weapons to conquer any defense. And on the topic of defense, Texas appears to have a unit that will give opposing offensive coordinators fits in the weeks and months to follow.

The Longhorns just slayed the dragon, and they exorcised some demons along the way. As the energy left Bryant-Denny Stadium with the mass exodus of fans late on Saturday night, a new energy took shape.

A team many years in the making has new life. At long last, the Texas of old has been reborn.

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