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2012 Season Archive

Andrew Owens | Tuesday, January 8, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Just minutes after the final whistle sounded in Alabama’s 42-14 domination of Notre Dame, Sun Life Stadium employees hurriedly assembled the stage for the postgame ceremony.

Crimson Tide players were waving flags embroidered with “Back-to-back champions.”

Notre Dame limped off the field, some figuratively and others, like junior nose guard Louis Nix, literally.

On this night and this stage, it was unquestionable: Alabama is the king of college football.

The Irish were denied their first national championship in 24 years, and the Crimson Tide hoisted the crystal football for the third time in four seasons under head coach Nick Saban.

“We were beat today by a better football team,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “They beat us today, and we’ve got another step that we have to take in the development of our program, and it’ll be left up to those that have been led by these seniors, and that’ll be the challenge moving forward. 

“As for the game, it was pretty clear. I mean, we had a hard time getting off the field, and a lot of that had to do with Alabama.”

From the first possession, Alabama (13-1) left no doubt. The Crimson Tide received the opening kickoff, and engineered a five-play, 82-yard touchdown drive, forcefully punctuated by running back Eddie Lacy’s 20-yard touchdown run.

Alabama’s quick work marked the first touchdown drive Notre Dame (12-1) allowed this season of more than 75 yards.

“I think Coach Kelly told us before the game that there are eight minutes that are very important in the game,” Irish senior linebacker Manti Te’o said. “The first two minutes of the game, the last two minutes in the second quarter, the first two minutes of the third quarter and the last two minutes of the game, and obviously the first two minutes of the game didn’t pan out the way we thought it would go.

“But you know, we had a lot of opportunities … and we didn’t capitalize on those opportunities, and Alabama did.”

After a three-and-out by the Irish offense, it appeared Notre Dame received the spark it needed on the punt when Alabama returner Christion Jones muffed it. The Irish recovered, but the referees ruled sophomore safety Matthias Farley interfered with Jones.

Alabama shredded the Notre Dame defense again on a 61-yard drive that put the Crimson Tide in front 14-0. It was just the second time all season that the Irish trailed by double digits.

“They are a great team,” Nix said after the game. “They have one of the best offensive lines in the country – probably the best offensive line, but they did not dominate our defensive front. We just missed tackles.”

After another Notre Dame punt and Alabama touchdown drive, it was 21-0 after one play in the second quarter, and the rout was on. The Crimson Tide added two additional scores before the Irish reached the end zone for the first time at the 4:08 mark in the third quarter.

“Notre Dame had a really highly sort of statistical defensive team, and I thought that a real challenge for us in the game is how we would control the line of scrimmage, and I think that that’s probably the thing that was the most surprising to me is how we were able to control the line of scrimmage, especially early in the game,” Saban said. “We had a really good plan, and players did a really good job of executing it. But I didn’t think that we would be able to control the line of scrimmage.”

Lacy rushed 20 times for 140 yards and a touchdown, while freshman running back T.J. Yeldon’s number was called 21 times for 108 yards and a score. Alabama’s rushing prowess allowed senior quarterback A.J. McCarron to complete 20 of 28 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns.

“We’ve got to get physically stronger, continue to close the gap there, and just overall you need to see what it looks like,” Kelly said. “Our guys clearly know what it looks like. When I say, ‘know what it looks like,’ a championship football team. They’re back-to-back national champs. So that’s what it looks like. Measure yourself against that, and I think it was pretty clear across the board what we have to do.”

Alabama’s defensive front limited Notre Dame to 32 rushing yards, putting the offensive weight on quarterback Everett Golson’s shoulders. The sophomore finished 21-of-36 for 270 yards, an interception and two total touchdowns.

“Well, the beginning of the game I don’t think it was necessarily nerves,” Golson said. “I was more so anxious to play. I think all the players were anxious to play, and we had that mindset of really going out and executing and giving us the best chance to beat Alabama. Obviously things didn’t work out the way we planned.

“But how I feel right now, I’m kind of just taking this game under my belt. Like I said, I’ll just gain the experience from it, and really looking forward to next year knowing that I’ve got to be more of a leader, and just being more of a leader to this team and trying to make this team better.”

Notre Dame fell one win short of a national championship, but if the Irish are to remain among the nation’s elite, this season will be considered the program’s revival.

“[Losing] definitely sucks, to be quite honest,” Te’o said. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I wouldn’t trade this team for anything. I wouldn’t do anything differently. Obviously we wish that the night could have ended in a different way. … Regardless of what happened tonight, I’m proud of my team.”

Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu