TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A national football championship in hand after the BCS title game got uncomfortably close at the end, Alabama fans lit victory cigars and chanted "Roll Tide!" as the clock ran out on the Crimson Tide's win over Texas on Thursday night.
Alabama's 37-21 victory set off a loud celebration around Tuscaloosa, home to the university, with the sounds of fireworks and car horns mixing in with the old Southern rock hit "Sweet Home Alabama" blaring over loudspeakers outside bars.
Student Joshua Moulton held up his hands in jubilation when the Tide scored the second of two late touchdowns to pull away after Texas got to within 3 points midway through the fourth quarter.
"It got scary for a minute, but it's great now!" Moulton screamed over the din inside the smoky Houndstooth Sports Bar. It was packed with more than 300 fans decked out in red and white; beer flew through the air as time expired.
The party went into the wee hours, and Scott Harrison wasn't going to miss a minute of it.
"The last time we won one of these I was a little boy. I'm 28 now," said Harrison, nearly crying in excitement.
Life came to a virtual standstill all over the state for Crimson Tide fans as their team played about 2,000 miles away in Pasadena, Calif.
The day took on a surreal feel with snow falling across a wide area -- prompting mass school closings and a run on bread at grocery stores -- before kickoff. For some, the big worry was whether the electricity would stay on long enough to watch the game.
"We'll do anything to keep the TVs on," Brenda Ewart said earlier Thursday as she prepared for a game-watching party on the University of Alabama campus. Mercifully, the show went off without a hitch.
The Tuscaloosa Police Department called in additional officers to patrol around bars where the game was televised just in case fans got out of hand.
"We're not expecting any problems, but you have to be ready for the unexpected," said Brent Blankley, a department spokesman.
For many, the game has effectively provided a one-week extension of the holiday season.
The university canceled classes for three days in a decision that some panned as putting athletics above academics, and the Huntsville City Council called off a meeting set for kickoff time.
In suburban Birmingham, a judge postponed a civil trial over a fatal traffic accident at the request of lawyers who both wanted to go to Pasadena and said they were worried jurors wouldn't pay attention to the evidence because of football hysteria.
Felons even got a break. Alabama prisons don't have cable television and many are in rural areas with poor TV reception, but the state's 25,000-plus inmates were allowed to watch the game if they could pick it up on TV.
"Lights out are at 10 p.m., but I imagine if the game is running late they'll let them stay up to watch it," said Brian Corbett of the Department of Corrections.
Alabama fans have been craving a national title since Jan. 1, 1993, when the Crimson Tide beat Miami 38-13 in the Sugar Bowl to claim its last crown. A statue of then-coach Gene Stallings now stands on campus near one of Paul "Bear" Bryant and other winning 'Bama coaches.
Alabama was voted the unanimous No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll, earning its seventh AP title. Only Notre Dame has more AP national championships, with eight. Oklahoma also has seven.