The University of Alabama celebrates its national championship victory.
In a season full of memories for the Alabama football program, on no other day did the Tide roll as impressively as it did during a 32-13 thrashing of Florida in the SEC championship game in Atlanta on 5 December 2009.
For its dominating performance against the reigning national champions and quarterback Tim Tebow, Alabama’s victory was named by the United States Sports Academy as the College Football Game of the Year for the 2009 season.
Alabama’s masterful performance in the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup left no doubt which team was the best in the country, a point that was proven over a month later when the Tide finished off Texas 37-21 to win the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national championship game.
But the game that put the Tide in position to win its first national title since 1992 was the one from the 2009 season many fans will never forget.
Florida and Alabama were ranked as the top two teams in the country for much of the season, having clinched their spots in the SEC championship game early. The public knew something special was looming, as television ratings were the highest for a non-bowl college game since 2006.
Early on, it was clear that Alabama was the superior team despite Florida’s No. 1 ranking and 22-game winning streak. The Tide amassed 490 yards of total offense while limiting high-powered Florida to 335. Sophomore running back Mark Ingram clinched the first Heisman Trophy in Alabama’s rich history with 113 yards rushing and three scores against a Florida defense that had allowed an average of only 230 yards a game.
Further illustrating Alabama’s dominance was the play at quarterback, where first-year starter Greg McElroy outdueled Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner. McElroy threw for 239 yards and a TD on 12-for-18 passing to earn the game’s Most Valuable Player honor.
“Our entire team played great. Greg (McElroy) played great. Mark (Ingram) played great. Julio (Jones) played great,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban, who won the Academy’s Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award, after the game. “Really, most of the credit goes to our guys up front on the offensive line. This is a great win for our program.”
The College Football Game of the Year concept was developed by Daniel Moore, the Academy’s 2005 Sport Artist of the Year. The 2009 award will be the fourth presented by the Academy. Past winners have included Rutgers/Louisville-2006, Appalachian State-Michigan-2007, and Texas Tech/Texas-2008. The University of Alabama will receive a canvas replica of the Daniel Moore painting commemorating the game, a shadowboxed Award/Proclamation and a $5,000 donation for its general scholarship fund for the Game of the Year honor.
A panel of experts helped the Academy decide the Game of the Year. Chairman was Hall of Fame coach Jack Lengyel, the former athletic director at the U.S. Naval Academy and coach at Marshall University following a 1970 plane crash that claimed the lives of 75 players and coaches. The Marshall story was depicted in the 2006 film We Are Marshall.
Fifteen men with distinguished backgrounds in college football worked with the Academy’s Awards of Sport on the College Football Game of the Year Committee, including: Hall of Fame coach Vince Dooley from the University of Georgia; Dr. Homer Rice, the former head coach at Rice University and longtime Georgia Tech athletic director; and Ron Dickerson, the first African-American head football coach in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I.