Alabama routs Notre Dame to repeat as national champions
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Notre Dame was on the wrong side of history Monday night at Sun Life Stadium.
Coach Brian Kelly tried to awaken the echoes of past greatness as the undefeated, top-ranked Irish reached their first national title game since 1988. But the shine quickly came off the Golden Dome as Alabama used the Irish as little more than glorified straw men on the way to burnishing its own rich college football legacy.
Alabama won the BCS Championship Game for the third time in the past four seasons, 42-14, a performance of such utter dominance that the Irish fans in the stadium-record crowd of 80,120 were rendered mute almost from the opening drive.
Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose perfect coif is as much of a trademark as the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant's houndstooth hat, may not be a son of the South, but his record sure puts him in a class with that iconic figure. The BCS title actually was the fourth for Saban, counting the one he won at LSU in 2004, and the Crimson Tide (13-1) became the first team in BCS history -- which began in January 1999 -- to win three titles.
Saban spent the week before the game brushing off comparisons to Bryant and shunning all talk of "dynasties," but that will be impossible now. Letting down his hair just a bit, Saban said, "People talk about how difficult it is to win the first championship. Really, it's more difficult to win the next one. These guys made a commitment two days after winning the first one. I couldn't be prouder. Their legacy is what they accomplished tonight."
Known for his unsmiling demeanor, Saban offered a peek behind the façade when asked if he was happy. "Whether I look like it or not," he said, "I'm happy as hell. We're going to enjoy this for 24 hours or whatever."
Alabama totaled 529 yards of offense, and quarterback AJ McCarron was absolutely masterful, completing 20 of 28 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns. Eddie Lacy (140 yards on 20 carries), who was named offensive player of the game, and T.J. Yeldon (108 on 21) each topped the 100-yard rushing mark, and wide receiver Amari Cooper had six catches for 105 yards and two TDs. Notre Dame was limited to 32 rushing yards, but quarterback Everett Golson hit 21 of 36 passes for 270 yards.
Notre Dame (12-1) entered as the top-ranked scoring defense in the country, having allowed only two rushing touchdowns all season and no first-quarter TDs at all. All that was washed away in the blink of an eye, thanks to an overpowering Alabama offensive line led by All-Americans Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack.
Saban called it the best offensive line he's ever known. "The power, toughness and how physical we are is unique," he said. "And we have a couple of good backs, too. Eddie makes them miss, and are beating their chest because they think they blocked."
Placing faith in their defense, the Irish won the toss but deferred, kicking the ball away. It took the Crimson Tide all of five plays to go 82 yards for the opening touchdown, which came on a 20-yard run by Lacy up the middle right past Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te'o. Alabama's second drive went 61 yards and ended with a 3-yard touchdown toss from McCarron over Te'o to tight end Michael Williams for a 14-0 lead.
"When we watched film, we saw Boston College pushed them around," Fluker said of the Irish defense. "We knew that if they could do it, we could do it."
There was no holding back the Crimson Tide, who extended the halftime lead to 28-0 on a 1-yard run by Yeldon and an 11-yard pass from McCarron to Lacy.
McCarron was little short of flawless as he became the first quarterback to win two BCS titles. "I get chills thinking about it," he said.
He opened the second half by marching Alabama 97 yards in 10 plays to score on a perfectly thrown 34-yard deep fade to Cooper at the right pylon. "The outside was always open," said Cooper, who later caught a 19-yard TD pass. "There were a lot of holes in their zone."
Notre Dame finally salvaged a measure of self-respect by scoring on quarterback Everett Golson's 2-yard keeper and a 6-yard pass from Golson to Theo Riddick.
The most exciting moment of the second half might have come when McCarron got into a brief shouting match with Jones, his center, who pushed him back. But by the time the game ended, the only argument left for college historians was where to place Alabama in the pantheon of all-time great teams.