Smiting Irish: Bama takes talents to South Beach, dominates Notre Dame to become first repeat BCS champion
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Jan 08, 2013 | 7730 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama coach Nick Saban celebrates with his players after their win over Notre Dame on Monday in Miami. (Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star)
Alabama coach Nick Saban celebrates with his players after their win over Notre Dame on Monday in Miami. (Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star)
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MIAMI --- Alabama’s 15th national championship season ended as it began --- with the Crimson Tide dismantling yet another opponent that brought more name than game.

In this case, the name was Notre Dame.

Quarterback AJ McCarron turned in his second stellar performance in a Bowl Championship Series final, running back Eddie Lacy backed up his SEC Championship form with a most valuable player performance and the second-ranked Crimson Tide rolled No. 1 Notre Dame 42-14 in Sun Life Stadium.

This against the nation’s top scoring defense, which gave up just 10.3 points a game through an undefeated regular season.

Notre Dame’s offense, meanwhile, spent a frustrating night making plays here and there but never coming close to sustaining drives against the nation’s top total defense.

Much like it was when then-No. 2 Alabama crushed then-No. 8 Michigan 41-14 in the season-opener in Dallas, the Crimson Tide (13-1) carried the banner for SEC dominance by claiming the league’s seventh consecutive BCS title.

Just as the rout of Michigan vaulted Alabama to No. 1 in the polls, the rout of Notre Dame vaulted Alabama back to No. 1 in the BCS. The Tide became just the third team to win three national titles in four years and the first repeat champion in the BCS era, which started in 1998 and will end with a new, four-team playoff starting in 2014.

Alabama coach Nick Saban downplayed talk of a “dynasty” but had fun with a question about his perpetually serious look.

“Whether I look it or not, I’m happy as hell,” he said without smiling, drawing laughter in the postgame news conference.

The more outwardly emotional McCarron summed up Alabama’s back-to-back titles in true McCarron fashion: “I get chills thinking about it.”

Alabama’s dominance in this BCS final was more total, even, than its 21-0 showing against LSU a year ago but similar in at least one way. McCarron was brilliant in both games.

The junior quarterback who dumb-founded LSU’s defense with first-down passing a year ago did it to Notre Dame on Monday, completing 20 of 28 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns.

He hit rollout passes to Kevin Norwood.

McCarron hit a lookoff to Amari Cooper for a 34-yard touchdown, who finished with six catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

Using the full array of potential targets, McCarron also hit touchdown passes of three yards to tight end Michael Williams and 11 yards on a dumpoff Lacy, a running back.

McCarron took full advantage of a defense that came ready to sellout on personnel against the run, achieving a passer rating as high as 230.1 during the first half. His rating finished at 197.8.

His performance would have been more statistically dominating, but for two deep-ball drops near the goal line by Cooper. Christion Jones dropped a pass in the fourth quarter, dropping McCarron’s passer rating under 200.

“AJ always performs the same way,” Cooper said. “He’s going to take what the defense gives, and that’s what we did tonight, and we were very successful in doing that.”

Lacy, meanwhile, kept hitting Notre Dame over the right side of its defense and put on a show of speed, power and elusiveness en route to 140 yards rushing, including a 20-yard touchdown run.

On one second-quarter run, he stiff-armed Notre Dame linebacker Danny Spond to the ground.

On Lacy’s 11-yard touchdown catch, he left carnage in the middle of Notre Dame’s defense with two spin moves.

Lacy finished with 157 total yards, and Alabama finished with 265 rushing yards against the nation’s No. 4 defense against the run. Add T.J. Yeldon’s 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and Alabama scored two rushing touchdowns against a team that gave up just two during the regular season.

“I think, for one of the first times this season, we were able to come out and play a complete game,” Lacy said.

Alabama gained 529 total yards against a Notre Dame defense that looked physically overmatched and a step slower than the players it chased.

“We had a hard time getting off the field, and a lot of that had to do with Alabama,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “They ran the ball effectively. For us, we’ve been able to manage the run game.

“They were able to run the ball effectively, and then, obviously, when you do that, it opens up so much of the play-action game.”

Saban expressed surprise at how well Alabama dominated the line of scrimmage. He even suggested that pregame conditions, including 81 percent humidity, played a role.

“Notre Dame had a really (good) statistical defensive team, and I thought that a real challenge for us in the game is how we would control the line of scrimmage,” he said. “… I think their guys got a little tired early in the game. I think it was a little easier for us to play in these conditions, with the humidity and all of that, because that’s what we grow up with.”

Notre Dame’s offense, meanwhile, seemed to concede the running game, with quarterback Everett Golson lining up in empty backfields and passing from the start. He completed 21 of 36 passes for 270 of Notre Dame’s 302 total yards.

Golson showed accuracy and extended plays off of scrambles, but Alabama built a 35-0 lead before the Fighting Irish sustained a scoring drive.

“It definitely sucks, to be quite honest, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o said of his final college game and season. “I wouldn’t trade this team for anything.

“I wouldn’t do anything differently. Obviously, we wish the night could end in a different way, but the season, the year and my career here? I’ve been truly blessed to be at Notre Dame, and I’ll forever be proud to say that I’m a Notre Dame Fighting Irish.”

Alabama’s seniors can say they were part of only the second Tide team to win in seven tries against Notre Dame, and they did it to punctuate a remarkable run of championships in the era of scholarship limits and parity.

“You know, we’re interested in accomplishment and consistency in performance,” Saban said. “We want to continue to try to do that in the future.”

Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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