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Dareus earns defensive MVP honors

, Calif. (AP) — Marcell Dareus was the menacing presence on the field for the Crimson Tide during the BCS title game and it’s guaranteed Texas fans won’t forget him anytime soon.

Not only did Dareus knock Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy out less than 5 minutes into the game Thursday night, he picked off a bad shovel pass by McCoy’s replacement and rumbled 28 yards for a touchdown.

By halftime, Alabama held a commanding 24-6 lead, thanks mostly due to the sophomore defensive end from outside Birmingham. The Crimson Tide weathered a rally and hung on for a 37-21 win, but few plays stood out more than the one that sent McCoy to the sideline just a few snaps into the BCS title game.

“I just heard a thump when I hit him,” said Dareus, named the defensive player of the game. “I did lay it down pretty hard. I didn’t try to, but it felt great.”

Dareus started only four of Alabama’s 13 games as the Tide rolled to Pasadena.

With only four tackles as a freshman, Dareus seemed an unknown quantity entering the season. Now, he’ll be remembered for a long time for what he did in 30 minutes in Pasadena.

After Alabama botched a fake punt on the game’s opening possession, the Longhorns moved to the Crimson Tide 11 line when McCoy kept on an option.

Dareus stopped McCoy for no gain and injured his right shoulder. McCoy came off the field and soon headed for the locker room, and he wouldn’t return to the game.

“I really didn’t try to hit him that hard,” Dareus said. “I really didn’t want to hurt him. It’s a part of the game.”

With the winningest quarterback in major-college history out of the game, the Crimson rallied from a 6-0 first quarter deficit.

After touchdown runs by Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, the Tide seemed ready to take a 17-6 lead into halftime.

But facing second-and-1 on his own 37, Texas coach Mack Brown called timeout with 15 seconds remaining.

On the next play, Gilbert threw a shovel pass into the middle of the line. Receiver D.J. Monroe juggled the ball, and then Dareus grabbed it.

All the Longhorns had to do was knock Dareus down. But he broke for the end zone, spun out of a tackle and stepped across the goal line with 3 seconds to play.

“I was thinking about grabbing the guy with the ball, but then I said, ‘Let me just grab this football.’ I wasn’t even thinking about the highlight. I was so excited. My legs were weak, my muscles were crazy, and I made it.”

Brown said he thought the shovel pass was a safe call, and he was stunned by the outcome.

“We called a little shuffle pass that I had never seen intercepted before, and I certainly hadn’t seen it intercepted for a touchdown,” Brown said.

Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram has scored 32 touchdowns in his career, including two on Thursday night. But he was thrilled to see Dareus score.

“‘D’ tackles don’t get in the end zone too much, so I was real proud of him,” Ingram said. “He made a big play, a tremendous play that probably was the deciding factor in the game.”