From beginning to end, the Crimson Tide dominated and sent the resounding message that the SEC reigns above all conferences. To wit: ‘Bama’s title is the seventh straight for the SEC.
Led by quarterback AJ McCarron and running back Eddie Lacy, the Tide alternately bruised and picked apart the Irish defense, making star linebacker Manti Te’o, a Heisman Trophy finalist, and his cohorts look like Alabama roadkill.
“They just did what Alabama does,” Te’o said after the game.
Notre Dame was undefeated and No. 1 in the country coming into the game, but it had not faced a team like Alabama. The Crimson Tide used a lethal combination of power and finesse to overwhelmed the Irish on both sides of the ball. Lacy ran right through the Irish defense on a 20-yard touchdown in the game’s opening minutes, capping an 82-yard drive, which was the longest given up on the season by the Irish.
It was a harbinger of dominance to come.
McCarron led his team down the field on their second possession for 61 yards, climaxed by a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Michael Williams, who was standing in the back of the end zone unattended. The Tide went up 14-0, and they were just beginning to roll.
Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon put the Tide up 21-0 on the first play of the second quarter on a 1-yard run. The Crimson Tide got to that point on the strength two long McCarron completions: one to receiver Kevin Norwood for 25 yards and the second to freshman extraordinaire Amari Cooper for a 27-yard gain.
Once Yeldon scored, all Irish hopes of winning their first national championship since 1988 vanished into the warm Miami night air. Irish fans were hushed and their players were in awe.
”We’ve got to get physically stronger, continue close the gap there,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ”Just overall, we need to see what it looks like. Our guys clearly know what it looks like now – a championship football team. That’s back-to-back national champions. That’s what it looks like. That’s what you measure yourself against there. It’s pretty clear across the board what we have to do.”
Already up 28-0 at halftime, the Crimson Tide opened the third quarter with the similar control, making it 35-0 on a 34-yard hook up from McCarron to Cooper. If it was not already over, it was then.
And so, Tide coach Nick Saban sits atop the college coaching mountain with four national championships, three at Alabama.
“We’ve had a lot of really great football players who’ve worked really hard,” Saban said. “Because we’ve had a great team, we’ve been able to have a significant amount of success.”
Kelly took the hard lesson from the defeat: His team still has a ways to go.
“We made incredible strides to get to this point,” he said. “Now it’s pretty clear what we’ve got to do to get over the top.”
Lacy finished with 140 yards on 20 carries and was voted the game’s offensive MVP. McCarron, who was last year’s MVP, threw for 264 yards and four touchdowns on 20 of 28 passing.
The stoic Saban said: “Whether I look it or not, I’m happy as hell.”
But he said he gets back to work in two days. No extended rest for champions.