"That's all we've heard about since the Auburn game," he said. "I don't care what people have to say about me. I'm the least individual person on this team. The fact that we can go out and say we're Cotton Bowl Champions, and this group that we came in with - we had a rough go of it - to say we're 10-2 and got Alabama going back in the right direction that will make a lot of our lives a lot easier."
Croyle had also heard about Alabama being an underdog in the Cotton Bowl. Despite equal 9-2 records and playing in the superior Southeastern Conference, Texas Tech was a three-point favorite by most oddsmakers and media opinion also tended towards Texas Tech and their vaunted offense.
"We liked playing in that role, but we kind of took it as an insult," Croyle said. "We were ranked higher. We felt like we had played some pretty good teams throughout the year and done pretty well against them. To come out here and still be called the underdog kind of ruffled a bunch of feathers.
"That's a tough Texas Tech team. They fought and fought and fought. That might be the most fun game I've ever played in," he said.
The game was physical, but Croyle's much-maligned offensive line held up.
"There weren't any problems with the center," Croyle said. "To go through the criticism they went through after giving up all the sacks against Auburn – everybody counted them out – to do what they did today; no sacks, I got hit once and it was a late hit. It was amazing. You have to take your hat off to Coach Connelly and those guys for getting them ready."
Croyle said he couldn't compare Texas Tech's defense, which rarely blitzed, to Southeastern Conference defenses.
"Not really the SEC. They ran a lot of the same stuff that Utah State ran, some of the same stuff we played in the season opener against Middle Tennessee State," Croyle said. "In the SEC you're basically going to get man coverage and they're going to blitz you. Against Texas Tech we didn't see that many blitzes. They might have gone man two times the whole game. It was just cover four and cover three the whole game."
Alabama's offense held the ball for 23 and a half minutes in the second half.
"I don't know how long we had the ball but we said all week we wanted to control the ball and keep it out of their offenses hands and that's what we did," Croyle said. "We didn't score as many touchdowns as we obviously wanted to but what can you say about our defense? They're awesome. It's been a pleasure to be around them."
One of the clutch plays in the game, in Alabama's Cotton Bowl history, was a crossing pass to Matt Miller on third and six with just over a minute to play in the game. The catch and holding on after a crushing shot by Tech safety Dwayne Slay kept the game-winning drive alive.
"Matt's probably one of the toughest guys on our team," Croyle said. "He plays everything. He doesn't complain when he doesn't get enough reps or whatever, but when it comes crunch time he was there. He made one heck of a catch in front of two of the best safeties we've seen all year."
Consecutive completions to little-used [at receiver] Brandon Brooks moved the chains further for the Crimson Tide. Brooks made the catches in the final series after two muffed punts nearly cost Alabama momentum and field position, but Alabama fortunately recovered both punts. Brooks was replaced by Anthony Madison for Tech's final two punts of the game.
"Just to see Brandon [Brooks] come back and make that catch and make the first down after a rough day – the fact those two guys are seniors is awesome," Croyle said, "especially with Matt because I grew up with him since I was three years old. He's been one of my best friends since then."