TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Texas upset Alabama 34-24 on Saturday night, and Longhorns linebacker Jaylan Ford couldn’t let the celebration pass without finding quarterback Quinn Ewers on the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It took a minute to locate the author of the Longhorns’ biggest win in more than a decade, but when Ford found Ewers in front of the Texas band, he pulled him in close for a big bear hug and a quick word.
“Helluva game,” he told Ewers. “You got more to go win.”
Ford let Ewers go enjoy the moment that had been such a long time coming. It felt great seeing Ewers’ success, Ford said, “Because all that s— people have been talking about him.”
Ah, yes, that. Ewers certainly has amassed more than his fair share of critics. And oddly enough, many of them were Texas fans at first when he backed off his commitment in 2020 and signed with Ohio State. The theory went that as the first college player to sign a $1 million name, image and likeness deal, he was doing nothing more than chasing the money. But then he left Columbus after one season, and Buckeyes fans got their turn at heckling him. Back to Texas he went — and under the microscope that every Longhorns’ quarterback gets treated to.
Maybe his mullet made him an easy target too. Who knows? He cut it off this summer.
Either way, it made what happened here on Saturday night all the more special. Because when it felt like momentum was slipping away — after Alabama scored a touchdown and secured a 2-point conversion to cut the lead to three in the fourth quarter — it was Ewers who calmly entered the huddle.
A year ago, he left the Alabama game with an injury and watched helplessly from afar as the lead slipped away.
This time, he was in control.
This time, he turned to his teammates and said, “Let’s go win.”
And they did.
Seven plays later, Ewers put the final nail in the Crimson Tide’s coffin with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell. His line: a sterling 24 for 38 passing for 349 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Texas got its long-awaited signature win, and Ewers got vindication.
Forget the injury. Forget battling with Hudson Card for the starting job. Forget the addition of five-star Arch Manning during the offseason.
Ewers overcame all that and more.
“It’s been a long road, and he played a heckuva game,” Longhorns athletic director Chris Del Conte said.
Even Vince Young had to stand up and applaud.
“The whole world was against him; it was against all odds,” the Longhorns legend said. “I’m very proud of him.”
Not just that.
“We are not done yet,” Young said.
From the outside, there were plenty of questions about whether Ewers could carry Texas back to national prominence. But internally, there was belief, which is why teammates reveled in Ewers’ success more than he did.
“Quinn’s a dog,” veteran defensive lineman T’Vondre Sweat said. “I’m not surprised.”
Neither was Mitchell.
“I guess this is y’all’s first time seeing it,” he said. “So I guess it’s new to y’all, but we’ve always believed in him.”
Steve Sarkisian always believed in Ewers’ talent too. But what Ewers showed Saturday — a total command of the offense, the ability to quickly work through his reads and be decisive — was a result of his preparation leading up to the game, the Texas coach said.
Work like that every week and the sky’s the limit.
“I think it can serve as a springboard for Quinn if he can recreate the habits right Sunday through Friday to get himself ready,” Sarkisian said.
For his part, Ewers tried to keep the win in perspective, turning the attention back to his teammates — to their preparation, to the play of the offensive line, to the spectacular catches made by the wide receivers.
Did this represent redemption for him?
“I wouldn’t say redemption,” Ewers said skeptically.
He didn’t bite when asked whether the game “legitimized” his development.
But the signal-caller did say it was good to finish what the Longhorns started against Alabama last year.
“It was awesome to come in here and do what we did,” Ewers said.
What was special, Ewers explained, was seeing his parents afterward — their smiles and how “fired up they were.”
“It’s definitely going to be a moment I’m going to remember forever,” he said, allowing himself just a bit of reflection. “Yeah, it’s going to be pretty cool to look back on.”
Play like he did against Alabama and he’ll make even more memories.
Saturday’s performance silenced his critics.
Now comes the fun part: making fans.