Both teams came into the championship game undefeated but as everyone knows by now, Joe Scarborough’s alma mater, The Crimson Tide, won their first national title since 1992 with 37-21 victory over the Longhorns.
It’s significant to me that with 10 minutes left in the game the score was 24-21 with the momentum on UTA’s side. Alabama scored two touchdowns with minutes left in the game and it’s their calm, cool, collected “it’s not over until we say it’s over” attitude that I want to discuss. But first the drama:
UTA’s Colt McCoy — the winningest quarterback in college football history — got knocked out of the game in the first quarter during their fifth offensive play of the game. A devastating blow to the team and a heart-breaking blow to McCoy playing the last game of his college career. In came freshman backup Garrett Gilbert who holds all sorts of impressive high school football records but who’d only thrown 26 passes as a college quarterback and had never QB’d against Alabama and certainly never in a championship game. (Of course as a mom my first thoughts went to Gilbert’s mom — proud and thrilled and wracked with nerves beyond description at the same time).
It was tough going at first and I wondered what was going through this kid’s head. He was a heavily recruited high school player and has trained for this for years but as Gregg routinely points out to me, how much time was spent working on his mental game?
Something clicked. And I was excited to watch how these two teams worked as teams. This is what Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban on ESPN.com:
“It was like we’d won the game at halftime,” Saban said. “But you can’t accept being average. You’re playing a team in the national championship game that knows how to win.”
“Fight to the Finish” is a cliche but it’s also an important axiom for kids and anyone faced with a chips-are-down situation. Many of us would mentally and emotionally throw in the towel when faced with our superstar (and Heisman runner-up) quarterback suddenly out of the game. How can we win? How can we play?? McCoy is the glue that holds us together and who’s this pipsqueak Gilbert anyway? But the UTA players didn’t get to Pasadena thinking like the rest of us. They adjusted and played with integrity. Gilbert and All-American Jordan Shipley had two gorgeous touchdowns in the 4th quarter plus an impressive two point conversion and the momentum was palpable. It looked like they could win this game.
But then of course Alabama played with integrity too. They struck me as inexhaustible. It was a game with so many emotional twists and turns it would have been easy to think “we’ve got it” after the first half. But they’ve got great leadership all around (see Saban’s quote above). It wasn’t Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy’s most impressive game according to the commentators but I was knocked out to learn the handsome athlete is also a scholar who’s going to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. Mark my words, he’ll be president some day.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a sport psychologist to many professional athletes, motivational speaker, business keynote speaker and sales training speaker. To see more about going Full throttle in your sales, business and life, go to www.drgreggsteinberg.com and see his new book, Full Throttle on amazon.com