MIAMI — It was supposed to be a colossal clash between two of college football’s giants, a slugfest between the nation’s two stingiest defenses.
Monday night’s BCS National Championship game—played in front 80,120, the largest crowd in Sun Life Stadium history—turned out to be just another coronation for Nick Saban, Alabama and the Southeastern Conference.
The Crimson Tide (13-1) pounded and pummeled Notre Dame from start to finish, smacking the previously unbeaten Irish from its No. 1-ranked perch, 42-14, to become the first program since Nebraska (1994-97) to win three national titles in four years. Alabama also became the first team to win back-to-back titles since the Huskers did it 17 years ago.
Alabama coach Nick Saban, who once dreamed of taking the Dolphins to such heights in this same building before bolting for Tuscaloosa six years ago, lifted the prized national championship trophy when it was finally over.
Now among a handful of coaching greats to win four national championships in his career (Alabama’s Bear Bryant won six; Minnesota’s Bernie Bierman five; Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy and Tennessee’s Robert Neyland each won four), Saban’s team played as complete a game as it had all season.
Alabama rolled up 528 yards of offense and 28 first downs against Notre Dame, which came in ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, fourth against the run and having allowed just two rushing touchdowns all season.
The Tide led 14-0 after the first quarter, 28-0 at halftime, and was up 35-0 when Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson finally dove into the end zone on a 2-yard with 4:08 to play in the third quarter. The touchdown ended a run of 69 unanswered points in BCS title games dating back to Alabama’s win over Texas in 2010.
TJ Yeldon and Eddie Lacy, the freshman-junior duo who became the first pair of 1,000-yard backs in Alabama history, took turns shredding the Irish while quarterback AJ McCarron, the most efficient passer in the NCAA this season, worked like a surgeon.
McCarron finished 20 of 28 for 264 yards and four touchdown passes. Lacy, voted the most outstanding player on offense, ran for 140 yards and scored twice—on a 20-yard dash through the heart of the Irish defense on the game’s opening drive and on an 11-yard pass with 31 seconds left in the half. Yeldon finished with 108 yards on 20 attempts and a touchdown.
Amari Cooper, who led Alabama in receiving this season as a freshman, caught two touchdown passes from McCarron in the second half.
The first was a 34-yarder with 7:34 to go in the third quarter that made it 35-0. The other was a 19-yarder with 11:27 remaining, a diving catch in the end zone down the middle of the Irish defense. Cooper finished with six catches for 105 yards in front of his family and friends.
Notre Dame, hoping to win its first title since 1988 and become the first team since BYU (1984) to win the AP national title after being unranked in the preseason AP poll, never got its dangerous rushing attack going.
Led by linebackers C.J. Moseley and safeties Robert Lester and HaHa Clinton-Dix, Alabama’s defense stuffed Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood and forced Golson to go to the air early. That plan didn’t work for the Irish.
After falling behind 7-0 almost instantly and surrendering just the third rushing touchdown it had all season, the Irish appeared to catch a break when Christion Jones fumbled a punt and Notre Dame recovered at the Bama 24.
But referees ruled Irish safety Matthias Farley had interfered with Jones, who had called for a fair catch and Alabama retained possession.
Irish fans were angry.
The rest of the night didn’t go any better.
Monday night’s title game, the 20th college football championship game decided in South Florida, began with the usual festivities.
Before the Zac Brown Band sang the national anthem, paratroopers from Wings of Blue flew into the stadium carrying the game ball and team flags. The trooper carrying the Crimson Tide’s flag slipped to his backside while the one carrying Notre Dame’s flag landed perfectly in stride at the 50.
An electric sellout crowd—one decidedly louder for Notre Dame—stood on its feet for nearly all of the pre-game festivities. But by the time Yeldon had barreled his way into the end zone on the first play of the second quarter to make it 21-0, much of the fight in the Irish had dissipated.
Alabama, which claims 15 national titles overall, has now won 10 national championships since the poll era began in 1936. Notre Dame, which claims 11, remains second all-time with eight.