Luck of the Irish finally runs out for Notre Dame
The suspense ended almost immediately. Almost. Notre Dame stuffed the Crimson Tide on their first play from scrimmage. On the next snap, quarterback AJ McCarron found receiver Kevin Norwood for a 29-yard gain. Notre Dame compounded that with a facemask penalty, then compounded that with a defensive offsides. Its vaunted defence, led by linebacker Manti Te’o, was generally ineffective.
Running back Eddie Lacy finished off the drive with a 20-yard touchdown, his path largely unchallenged, his body largely untouched. It was the first time this season Notre Dame allowed a first-quarter touchdown. The 82-yard drive was the longest this year against the Fighting Irish.
The worst start Notre Dame could have imagined only worsened from that point. Officials ruled a completion incomplete, and when the Irish appeared to recover a fumble on the ensuing punt, officials flagged them for catching interference.
Alabama simply resumed its rush to judgment. McCarron continued to hand the ball to Lacy, who continued to plunge forward, mostly at the right side of Notre Dames defence, which looked like a matador, with Lacy playing the bull.
By the time Alabama scored its second touchdown, on a pass from McCarron to tight end Michael Williams, the Crimson Tide boasted a 123-8 advantage in total yardage. By the time Alabama scored its third touchdown, a TJ Yeldon run on the first play of the second quarter, the Fighting Irish had 23 yards – and the Crimson Tide had 21 points.
As the game approached, the hype ballooned so as to dominate the national conversation about sports, until this felt less like a national championship game and more like a history lesson. Here they stood: Notre Dame and Alabama, golden helmets against red elephants, storied tradition opposite storied tradition, football in the heartland v football in the South.
If college football released an encyclopedia, these schools would occupy two of the larger volumes. Alabama claimed 14 national championships before Saturday; Notre Dame 11.
Before Saturday, the most-watched college football game took place between Texas and Southern California, in 2006, and it averaged 35.6 million viewers. This contest was expected to challenge and ultimately trump that number, at least until they played it.
Notre Dame did score in the third quarter and ended the shutout. It will eventually celebrate a 12-1 season that brought the return of Notre Dame to college footballs elite.
But not on Monday night. In this dud, Notre Dame flopped and Alabama triumphed.
New York Times