The Crimson Tide swept away the Fighting Irish as Alabama beat Notre Dame 42-17 on Monday in a college football title decider that failed to live up to the hype.
Alabama got touchdowns on each of their first three drives, quickly turning expectations of a classic showdown between two storied football programs into a mismatch.
It was the third national title in four years for the Crimson Tide, with coach Nick Saban overseeing a dynasty that invites comparisons with that established by Paul “Bear” Bryant, who led Alabama to six titles between the late 1950s and early 1980s.
Alabama running back Eddie Lacy ran for one touchdown and caught a pass for another in the final minute of the opening half, spinning away from the vaunted Notre Dame defense not once, but twice, to cap a 28-0 blitz before the break.
Lacy finished with 140 yards on 20 carries, coming up with two of his best performances in the two biggest games of the year.
He also rushed for a career-high 181 yards in a thrilling victory over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference title game.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron was not too shabby, either, completing 20 of 28 passes for four touchdowns and 264 yards.
“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.”
Alabama scored 69 straight points against their title game opponents, going back to getting the final 13 against Texas in 2010, followed by a stifling 21-0 victory over Louisiana State for last year’s crown, then scoring the first 35 points on Notre Dame.
Saban’s team made the Irish look like a squad that would be hard-pressed to finish in the middle of the pack in the mighty Southeastern Conference, which has now won seven straight national championships.
Before a record Sun Life Stadium crowd of 80,120, Lacy ran right through the Notre Dame defense on a 20-yard touchdown run before the game was three minutes old, capping an 82-yard drive that was longest of the season given up by the Fighting Irish.
It would only get worse. Alabama marched right down the field on their second possession, this one a 10-play, 61-yard pounding that finished with McCarron faking out the defense and lofting a three-yard touchdown pass to Michael Williams, standing all alone in the back of the end zone.
On the first play of the second quarter, T.J. Yeldon powered over from the one to make it 21-0, the finish to another impressive drive — this one covering 80 yards — that included two long completions by McCarron.
First, he went to Kevin Norwood on a 25-yard gain. Then, he hooked up with freshman Amari Cooper for a 27-yard gain to the Notre Dame six.
By that point, it was clear to everyone that Notre Dame’s hopes of winning their first national championship since 1988 were all done. However, Alabama just poured it on.
Lacy’s 11-yard touchdown reception with 31 seconds left in the half left the Irish fans shaking the heads in disbelief, while the Alabama faithful broke out that familiar “sec, sec, sec” chant, as if to let Notre Dame know that it may have turned things around under third-year coach Brian Kelly, but is not yet ready to compete with one of the Southern powerhouses.
Alabama made it 35-0 on McCarron’s second TD pass of the night, a 34-yarder to Cooper without a Notre Dame defender in sight.
The Irish finally scored late in the third quarter, a two-yard run by Everett Golson that served no other purpose except to end Alabama’s remarkable scoreless streak in title games.
Notre Dame made tremendous strides under Kelly, going from unranked in the preseason to the top spot in the rankings by the end of the regular season.
However, that long-awaited championship will have to wait at least one more year.
“We’ve got to get physically stronger, continue close the gap there,” Kelly said. “Our guys clearly know what it looks like now — a championship football team. That’s what you measure yourself against there. It’s pretty clear across the board what we have to do.”
Golson completed his first season as the starter by going 21 of 36 for 270 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
However, he got no help from the running game, which was held to 32 yards — 170 below their season average.