The paratrooper flying a Notre Dame flag into Sun Life Stadium Monday night stuck his landing in the middle of the BCS National Championship logo at midfield during the pre-game festivities. The good news for the Irish pretty much ended there.
Alabama running back Eddie Lacy ran for 140 yards and two scores in a dominant championship effort.
No. 2 Alabama had its way with Notre Dame, steamrolling the No. 1 scoring defense in the country 42-14 on its way to a second consecutive national championship and the third in four years. Alabama’s running attack shrugged off the vaunted Irish front seven and junior quarterback AJ McCarron was his typical efficient self for an offense that racked up 528 total yards of offense. What was billed as a potential heavyweight thriller, turned into an early round knockout.
The Tide’s 220-pound wrecking ball Eddie Lacy steadily outran and outmuscled the blue jerseys that tried to get in his way. Lacy delivered the first body blow with a 20-yard run through the middle of the field less than three minutes after the opening kickoff — just the third rushing scoring Notre Dame had surrendered to that point in the season.
He continued to hammer away for 96 rushing yards in the first half and 140 before the night was over. Lacy ended the first half with an 11-yard touchdown reception punctuated by a patented spin move that left a pair of Notre Dame defenders crashing into one another at the goal line and gave the Tide a 28-0 lead. In between, running back T.J. Yeldon and tight end Michael Williams each converted short scores.
Notre Dame’s game plan — to grind the ball on offense, keep the game close and wait for its big play opportunities — stalled on the runway. Irish running backs Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood combined for three carries by the time Alabama had scored three touchdowns.
The Irish went three-and-out on their first possession after two fade attempts to Tyler Eifert were ruled incomplete. Eifert came close to pulling in the second attempt on the sideline, but referees chose not to review the play. The Pac-12 crew overturned a muffed punt recovery on the following play due to a personal foul. Both points were quickly rendered moot by a Tide offense that was averaging eight yard per snap midway through the third quarter.
Sophomore Everett Golson was more effective in the second half despite throwing an interception on his first drive out of the locker room. The rookie finished the night completing 21 of his 35 passing attempts for 270 yards.
He connected with Riddick midway through the fourth quarter on a six-yard touchdown pass.A disciplined Alabama defense largely contained Golson’s attempts to scramble. He did run for a touchdown on a two-yard option keeper in the third quarter.
Golson’s lone interception, a deflection hauled in by Alabama sophomore Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix at the three-yard line, led to an insult-to-injury Tide touchdown that zapped the hope of a comeback from even the most diehard of Irish supporters. McCarron marched his team 97 yards in the other direction. He capped the drive with a 34-yard touchdown pass to freshman All-American Amari Cooper who was wide open behind the Irish defense.
Cooper scored from 19 yards out in the fourth quarter. He ended his standout rookie season with six catches for 105 yards and near misses on two other deep balls.
Alabama’s win officially put the dynasty stamp on head coach Nick Saban’s team and the SEC fingerprint on another BCS. That makes seven crystal balls in a row for the proud Southeastern Conference. Alabama fans were celebrating with “S-E-C” chants by the end of the second quarter.
Notre Dame (12-1) lost its first game in more than a calendar year, dating back to its 18-14 loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl last December. Their bid for their first title in a generation and a return to prominence fell just short, but oh so far away.