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Bill Plaschke

'This one's going to hurt for awhile' for Notre Dame

The Irish's return to glory runs up against the reality of Alabama's dominating offense in 42-14 loss in BCS title game. The talent difference is enormous; the speed isn't comparable.

January 07, 2013|Bill Plaschke

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — On a night they summoned memories of the Four Horsemen, they were delivered only the Apocalypse.

Instead of winning one for the Gipper, they lost one for the ages.

On a night when myth and magic were punched in the face by McCarron and Lacy, Notre Dame's return to glory became a return to gory after a 42-14 beating by Alabama in the BCS championship game.

It was a sweet story until it started. It was a nice idea until the Irish attempted it. The thousands of clover-clad fans who descended upon Sun Life Stadium to witness the ending of a 24-year championship wait by America's most traditional college football program were thrilled until they actually took their seats.

Then Forrest Gump ran circles around Rudy.

Thunder shook down from the sky, but it was Alabama offensive linemen trampling over helpless Irish defenders.

Echoes were awakened, but in the form of repeated shouts by Alabama wide receivers who were open from here to the Everglades.

Roll Tide? Roll Tidal Wave. In becoming the first team in the BCS era to win consecutive national championship games, Alabama dominated this shindig seemingly from the moment Notre Dame strapped on those impossibly shiny gold helmets .

Alabama led, 35-0, seemingly before the nation's leading scoring defense made a tackle. Alabama outfought the Fighting Irish to a 265-32 edge in rushing yards. The only compelling hit on an Alabama player came from another Alabama player, after a miscommunication midway through the fourth quarter, when center Barrett Jones shoved quarterback AJ McCarron.

Fittingly, in the end, the thoroughly beaten Irish stumbled off the field underneath a stadium section filled with the wailing Alabama band and rows of singing and waving fans, a sea of red smothering tarnished gold.

"It definitely sucks,'' said Mantei Te'o, Notre Dame linebacker.

Te'o finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, but he disappeared beneath the Crimson Tide's 529 total yards. Everett Golson walked into the stadium as a dangerously mobile quarterback, but he left averaging minus-one yards per carry. Notre Dame began the night as the top-ranked team in the country, and ended it looking like a 7-6 fourth-place finisher in the SEC West.

The talent difference was enormous. The speed wasn't comparable. It was like the varsity playing the junior varsity, which was stunning considering that the junior varsity had been 12-0.

Alabama was so good in winning the SEC's seventh consecutive BCS title, they will probably be favored to win next season. Notre Dame was so awful, it could be several years before it returns to this level.

"This one is going to hurt for a while," said Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin afterward, his tears smearing his eye black.

The Irish locker room was a mixture of hugs and tears and defiance, all played out to a soundtrack of a coach shouting the order that they all return to the team hotel together on the team bus.

"That's us, together till the end,'' said guard Mike Golic Jr., his voice choking and eyes reddening while giving the answer. "Tonight, it just didn't work out.''

On the other side of the room, giant nose guard Louis Nix III disputed the notion that the Irish were dominated. He suffered an injury during the game and limped off the field, but in front of his locker he was kicking mad.

"They did not dominate us, watch the film; I refuse to say they dominated us," he said. "We missed tackles. That was all. Say what you want, but they did not dominate us.''

He was wrong about the domination, but he was right about the missed tackles. They must have missed a dozen in the game's first three minutes, during which time they also committed two dumb penalties to help the Tide drive 82 yards for a touchdown on its first possession.

After Notre Dame failed on two consecutive out-of-bounds catches by Tyler Eifert, the Irish committed a third dumb penalty on the punt and the Tide needed but 61 yards for their second touchdown drive.

The muck of the Irish: With 6:14 left in the first quarter, Notre Dame had as many penalties — three — as offensive plays while being outgained 123-8.

The game had barely started and it was over. Notre Dame was so feeble, it even stunned the man who knows everything.

"The thing that was most surprising to me was how we were able to control the line of scrimmage," said Alabama Coach Nick Saban.

At halftime, the score was 28-0, with Alabama scoring one more point by beating Notre Dame to the door that led from the field to the locker room. The Irish were directed out another door, and if that led to the buses, everyone would have understood.

Can you say "uncle" in Gaelic?

"It was like, they kept putting up points, and we kept getting stopped, and they kept putting up points…'' said center Braxston Cave, shaking his head. "We just couldn't get it done."

It officially became embarrassing midway through the third quarter when Alabama receiver Amari Cooper, five yards from the nearest blue jersey, caught the ball at the 10-yard line and jogged in to give the Crimson Tide a five-touchdown lead.

By the time the game ended, McCarron had four touchdown passes, running back and most valuable player Eddie Lacy had 140 yards and two touchdowns, and Irish eyes were widened.

"Obviously, they took it to us,'' said linebacker Danny Spond, on a night that felt like a jeer, jeer for old Notre Dame.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

Twitter: @billplaschke

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