NCF Nation: 2012 BCS Championship

Tide's Kenny Bell pushing hard to play

January, 3, 2013
1/03/13
6:30
PM ET
Alabama wide receiver Kenny Bell appears close to returning for the Discover BCS National Championship after sustaining a broken leg just more than a month ago.

Bell, who suffered the injury Nov. 24 against Auburn, has been practicing on a limited basis for the past week and could figure into the game plan against Notre Dame on Jan. 7 in Miami.

Bell was not made available to the media Thursday, but Crimson Tide starting wide receiver Kevin Norwood told reporters he expects the speedy junior to be "ready" to play.

Bell will have three practices in South Florida to prove whether he's capable of competing. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Louisiana native has been Alabama's best deep threat, averaging a team-leading 25.4 yards per catch. He had 17 receptions for 431 yards and three touchdowns this season.

"(Bell) is doing great," Norwood said before Alabama broke for New Year's Eve. "He's doing his best to come back. I feel for him. This is something he wants to do. He's practiced hard all year, back in the summertime, doing extra work and stuff like that. He wants to be out there with us."

Unlike some of his teammates, Norwood hasn't been shocked by Bell's swift return.

"Well, for some people it might be crazy, but I've been around him a long time and I know he wants this," Norwood said. "He wants to be out there with us. I know he's working hard to be out there with us."

Alabama coach Nick Saban said on Dec. 18 that Bell was "cleared to start doing some things" and that "how he does, how he manages, what his tolerance is to activity is will be determined as we go."

Saban added at the time that he couldn't "make a call as to whether he'll play in the game or not at this juncture." He has not given much indication about Bell's availability since.

Alabama's RB duo surges to South Beach

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
11:44
AM ET
T.J Yeldon/Eddie LacyUS PresswireT.J. Yeldon (4) and Eddie Lacy (42) are the first two players in Alabama history to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.
Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon don’t have a menacing/witty nickname for their dynamic partnership in Alabama’s backfield. According to Lacy, they’re just “T.J. and Eddie.”

With the way they continuously beat up defenders, that might be intimidating enough. When they carry the rock, someone is going to get smacked in the jaw, and most of the time it isn’t one of them.

“Every time we get the ball, whether it’s T.J. or myself, we want to hit them,” said Lacy, who finished the regular season second in the SEC with 1,182 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. “We want to initiate the contact.

“T.J. and I have the same mindset: To hit us is going to be physical, too. To have two people running like that, it only wears the defense down.”

It's plain to see that these two have helped numb the loss of Heisman finalist Trent Richardson, and plenty of defenses found that out the hard way.

Lacy, a junior, and Yeldon, a true freshman, became the first two players in Alabama history to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. Yeldon currently has 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. They’re the first two backs in the SEC to each rush for 1,000 yards on the same team since Arkansas’ Darren McFadden and Felix Jones did it in 2007.

Both are averaging more than 6.4 yards per carry, and both average in the double digits when it comes to carries per game. Lacy might have the starter label, but it really is more like a 1A, 1B situation.

Lacy is more of the pounder, grinding out extra yards with defenders on his back like it’s nothing, while Yeldon packs both a punch and boosters. As center Barrett Jones puts it, Yeldon is a “freak specimen” who can run over defenders or cut right past them on a dime.

It makes blocking for each that much easier, Jones said. More often than not, Jones said, linemen don’t even know which back is in the huddle, and most of the time they aren’t concerned with knowing.

“The reason we don’t worry is because we have so much confidence in both guys,” Jones said. “We might be worried if there were a severe drop-off from one to two.”

Early on, Jones wasn’t sure whether that lack of a drop-off would exist. He was impressed with Yeldon during the spring, but wasn’t sure it would carry over to the fall. And Lacy, who has always dealt with nagging injuries, missed all of spring after undergoing surgery.

There was concern, but as players started to realize just how talented Yeldon was as he trudged through fall camp like a grown man, the fears surrounding the running game diminished.

“During camp practices, he never slowed down,” Lacy said of Yeldon.

With Lacy still not 100 percent to start the season, Yeldon raised eyebrows again, rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown in the opener against Michigan. Since then, the two have become a wrecking crew in Alabama’s backfield.

And they’ve done so without egos getting in the way. It would be easy for either to pout about sharing carries, but Lacy said sharing the rushing duty has made them better players by creating friendly competition and keeping them fresh.

In a league dominated by physical abuse, recovery is key, and that makes sharing carries that much more important for Alabama’s duo.

“Whoever you play, they’re coming to play, and they’re going to hit you,” Lacy said. “Limiting the carries limits those hits and allows your body to recover.”

That became very obvious in the SEC championship game against Georgia. Those four fresh legs churned out 334 of Alabama’s title-game record 350 rushing yards. The two embarrassed Georgia’s front and left the Bulldogs gassed.

And that’s what the two hope they do against No. 1 Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship. While the Irish own the nation’s No. 4 rushing defense, there’s no doubt this will be a very tall task for that unit.

Thanks to a punishing persona, Alabama is averaging an SEC-best 6.2 yards per carry on designed runs and 4.2 yards before contact. Tide rushers have made it at least 5 yards past the line of scrimmage without being touched on 35.1 percent of their designed runs, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

On designed, downhill runs up the gut, Alabama averages 6.6 yards per carry with about one in every five attempts going for at least 10 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Those are gaudy numbers for the Tide, and Jones can’t help but snicker at the thought of opponents having to face that tandem for 60 minutes.

“It’s an embarrassment of riches in our running backs room,” he said.
When Alabama takes on Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship, more than just a national title will be on the line. A shot at real history is there for the Crimson Tide, as they try to become the first back-to-back consensus national champion in college football since Nebraska in 1994-95, as well as the first school to win three national titles in the BCS era.

Alabama is moving into dynasty territory, and a win over the Fighting Irish would officially earn this team that distinction. The senior class has won 48 games over the past four seasons. A win down in Miami would break the SEC record Alabama shares with Florida (2006-09) and tie the NCAA record of 49 shared by Nebraska (1994-97) and Boise State (2006-09).

To read more of Mark Schlabach's story on Alabama's chase for a dynasty, click here.
Alabama center Barrett Jones will miss the next week of practice, as he continues to recover from a sprained foot that he suffered against Georgia in the SEC championship game on Dec. 1.

Coach Nick Saban said Jones, who wore a cast on his left foot and rode a stationary bike during Tuesday's practice, is "day to day" and that everything he's doing right now is "precautionary."

With Jones sidelined, freshman Ryan Kelly took snaps with the first-team offense.

Jones, who won the Rimington Award for the nation's top center, essentially played the final three quarters of the SEC title game on one foot. He needed crutches to get around after the game. Jones will be re-evaluated by doctors when he returns from Christmas break on Dec. 27, but he's already made up his mind that he'll be playing against Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship on Jan. 7.

"I'll be playing in the game," Jones said. "I'll be fine."

Jones' attitude toward his availability shouldn't come as much of a surprise. He could barely walk after the SEC title game, yet he was out on the field for most of game even after his first-quarter injury. Jones is one of the hardest workers around and if he could play on one foot against the Bulldogs, he'll do it again against Notre Dame if he has to.

While Jones is confident that he'll be ready to go for the BCS title game, Saban still doesn't know if wide receiver Kenny Bell will be able to play against the Fighting Irish. Bell broke his leg in the Crimson Tide's 49-0 win over Western Carolina on Nov. 17, but wore a black non-contact jersey during Tuesday's practice.

"I can't make a call as to whether he'll play or not," Saban said of Bell.

Having Bell back would give the Tide even more firepower on offense. He was quarterback AJ McCarron's top deep threat for most of the season, averaging 25.4 yards per catch this season.

Starting nose guard Jesse Williams also went through Alabama's first bowl practice with a black non-contact jersey on.

This time, Shelley gets his kicks

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
4:19
AM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- After Alabama tailback Trent Richardson finally broke the ice against No. 1 LSU in Monday night's Allstate BCS National Championship Game, scoring the first touchdown in more than 105 minutes of football played between the schools this season, Crimson Tide kicker Jeremy Shelley lined up for his easiest kick of the night.

Shelley missed the extra point.

But it didn't even matter.

After Shelley and fellow kicker Cade Foster combined to miss four field goals in the Crimson Tide's 9-6 loss in overtime to LSU on Nov. 5, Shelley made five field goals in Alabama's 21-0 victory over the Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday night.

For Mark Schlabach's full story, click here.

AJ McCarron displays maturity in win

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
4:14
AM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron needed one game plus 55 minutes to lead his offense into the end zone against No. 1 LSU. By then, however, the sophomore from Mobile already had delivered the No. 2 Crimson Tide to the Promised Land.

The box score shows that Alabama kicked five field goals and that McCarron never threw a touchdown pass. The Tide's lone touchdown, a 34-yard run by Trent Richardson with 4:36 to play, gave Alabama the 21-0 lead that will be recorded in the history books.

But you will have to think long and hard to find a more dominant performance by a quarterback operating between the 10s. With masterful play-calling by departing offensive coordinator Jim McElwain and a nerveless performance by the 6-foot-4, 205-pound McCarron, Alabama won the Allstate BCS Championship Game for the second time in three seasons.

For Ivan Maisel's full story, click here.

No doubting Alabama, Nick Saban

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
4:11
AM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- To those LSU followers who think they got short-sheeted by the BCS …

To those Oklahoma State honks who insist their team belonged here Monday night …

To those Associated Press voters who said they would keep LSU atop their ballots even if the Tigers lost to Alabama …

To all of them I say, "Are you nuts?"

Alabama removed LSU (and OSU) from the national title equation and also removed all doubt about who's No. 1. The Crimson Tide's 21-0 victory was so complete, so overpowering and so convincing that it left Bama's players in a state of postgame delirium.

For Gene Wojciechowski's full story, click here.
Dont'a HightowerMatthew Emmons/US PresswireAlabama's Dont'a Hightower (30) had 1.5 tackles for loss and forced this fumble. "I don't know any feeling in the world that could top this one," he said.

NEW ORLEANS -- When Alabama senior linebacker Courtney Upshaw addressed his teammates earlier this week, he kept coming back to one word.

Legendary.

“What I told them was, ‘Let’s be legendary,’ ” Upshaw recounted. “And that’s all they heard from me over and over again during the game.”

Upshaw had a feeling what was coming. He said he even dreamed about it.

So it’s no coincidence that he was one of the catalysts for what will go down as a legendary defensive performance by Alabama in a 21-0 strangulation of LSU on Monday night in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game.

Not only was it a legendary performance, but it’s a defense that will invariably evoke comparisons to the most revered defense in school history.

That would be the 1992 defense, which paved the way for Alabama to win a national championship with a dismantling of Miami on this same Superdome turf nearly two decades ago.

History will ultimately be the judge of how good this Alabama defense was, but some of the Crimson Tide’s players think they already know.

“We’re a group of guys who wanted it … with the best group of coaches in the world, and we wanted to finish,” Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “That was our main thing. We didn’t finish anything we did the first time we played these guys. We were going to finish this time.”

Kirkpatrick didn’t blink when asked how this Alabama defense would be remembered 15 years from now.

“The greatest defense in the world … the greatest defense to ever touch the field,” Kirkpatrick beamed.

Granted, he was still basking in Alabama’s second national championship in the past three years, and that’s a dizzying label to put on any defense.

But in the realm of the best college defenses in modern times, it’s going to be hard to top this bunch.

In shutting out LSU, Alabama’s defense went all 13 games this season without allowing more than 14 points in any game (Georgia Southern scored seven of its 21 on a kickoff return). The Crimson Tide also became just the second team in history to finish the season ranked No. 1 statistically in all four major defensive categories -- total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and passing defense. Oklahoma was the only other team to do it, in 1986.

“I don’t know where our place is in history, but this should answer a lot of questions about this season,” Alabama safety Mark Barron said. “We got tired of hearing about how we shouldn’t be here and that somebody else should.

“We didn’t want to leave any questions.”

LSU came into the game unbeaten and leading the SEC in scoring at 38.5 points per game. The Tigers played eight quarters and an overtime period against the Crimson Tide this season and never scored a touchdown.

In Monday’s title game, LSU crossed midfield just one time, and that came in the fourth quarter. The Tigers were held to 92 total yards, and the reality is that the two teams could have played 10 more quarters and LSU still wouldn’t have scored a touchdown.

“We had the Saban factor on our side,” Alabama junior linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “You can’t give coach (Nick) Saban 45 days off and not expect him to come up with something. We were ready for everything they threw at us tonight.”

As it was, LSU didn’t have much to throw at Alabama, at least anything that worked.

The Tigers wouldn’t (or couldn’t) go downfield in the vertical passing game. They didn’t pound the middle with the running game like Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was expecting, and they persisted in trying to get outside with the option, to no avail.

Smart said LSU hardly did anything Alabama was expecting and almost sounded perplexed that the Tigers didn’t take any shots down the field.

“They got in different personnel groupings and in different formations,” Smart said. “They tried to change everything, at least everything they’d done in every other game, and our guys responded.”

Upshaw, named the game’s Defensive MVP, said the Crimson Tide were determined not to let Jefferson hurt them running the ball. He had some success on the ground back on Nov. 5.

“Watching film on those guys, we saw where we ran upfield and got ourselves blocked and let Jefferson break out,” Upshaw said. “We wanted to come in with another game plan, to close the pocket, let the DBs lock down on their man, get some pressure on Jefferson and try and make him a passer.”

Jefferson finished 11-of-17 with an interception, but mustered just 53 passing yards. He was sacked four times.

“If they tried it, we were on it,” said Hightower, who had 1.5 tackles for loss and forced a fumble in one of his better all-around games of the season. “I don’t know any feeling in the world that could top this one.”

But topping this defense?

Saban hates comparisons, and he was asked Monday if this was the best defense he’s ever coached.

The closest he would come to answering that question was this: “I can’t tell you what defense was the best. I can just tell you this was one of the most enjoyable teams to coach.”

And going back to that iconic 1992 Alabama defense, it’s worth noting that the Crimson Tide surrendered an average of 9.2 points per game that season. This Alabama defense, bolstered by Monday night’s shutout, gave up just 8.2 points per game.

The Tide Nation will make the final call.

But there’s no denying one thing: Two different times this season, Alabama’s defense ran up against the No. 1-ranked team in the country, and the Crimson Tide didn’t give up their end zone on either occasion.

That’s truly the stuff of legends.

Jordan JeffersonChris Graythen/Getty ImagesLSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson was held to 53 yards passing and 15 yards rushing against Alabama.

NEW ORLEANS -- The ride is over.

The emotional roller coaster that was LSU’s season ended tragically inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The team that had shaken off a plethora of distractions and back-to-back games with double-digit, first-half deficits never made its way out of the French Quarter as No. 1 LSU (13-1, 8-0) fell to second-ranked Alabama (12-1, 7-1) 21-0 in Monday’s Allstate BCS National Championship Game.

For once, there was no spark for the Bayou Bengals. The team that had rolled over each and every opponent it faced this season -- and seemed on its way to a historic finish -- fell flat when it mattered the most.

“You have to play through adversity,” LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. “That’s what our coaches teach us.

“[Alabama] made all the big plays and made all the tough plays tonight, and [I] tip my hat off to them for making all the big plays and winning tonight.”

The defense had more bend on Monday than it had been accustomed to, allowing nearly 400 yards, five field goals and a late-game touchdown. Still, for staying on the field for 35 minutes that’s pretty good.

For everything the defense did for the offense, it got nothing in return. It got no adjustments, no originality. What it did get was five first downs, 92 total yards, 2.1 yards per play and zero points.

It got an offense that crossed into Alabama territory just once … and that came in the fourth quarter.

Followed by criticism throughout the season, LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson couldn’t get his offense moving. He couldn’t run and his arm didn’t help. The vertical passing game LSU promised wasn’t there because Jefferson admitted to holding onto the ball too long on designed deep passes because he wasn’t confident in where Alabama’s defenders were.

Some of his passes ranged from erratic to short. He was sacked four times and heard boos late in the first half and throughout the second when he took snaps instead of demoted quarterback Jarrett Lee.

Jefferson threw for 53 yards and an interception, and was beautifully contained by Alabama’s defense, which allowed him to rush for only 15 yards on 14 carries.

“I was seeing things clearly,” Jefferson said. “Making decisions with the ball wasn’t an issue.”

Jefferson turned the ball over twice, but it was his ill-advised flip-pass to an unsuspecting Spencer Ware that was devastating. Jefferson thought Ware was ready for the pass, but Ware had turned up field to block before Jefferson released the ball, which was intercepted.

“Other than that, I made great decisions with the ball,” Jefferson said. “Offensively, we just fell short.”

Very short.

Though there was no sign of Lee. He just stood on the sidelines, tossing the ball occasionally to keep his arm warm.

“It’s disappointing,” Lee said. “I would have liked to have gotten some snaps, but it is what it is. Didn’t get any snaps, so you gotta move on past that.”

LSU coach Les Miles' only explanation for not playing Lee was that with Lee’s lack of mobility he didn’t feel as though he could sustain Alabama’s pass rush.

Even with as poorly as Jefferson played, the pounding, wear-‘em-down running game that moved this offense never arrived. The Tigers got 12 carries from their running backs. (Leading rusher Michael Ford got four carries but managed only 1 yard.)

Offensive lineman Will Blackwell said the plan was to run the ball up the middle, but that never materialized so the staff directed runs to outside. Even after those didn't work, adjustments weren't made.

“I feel like we got away from our game plan a little bit,” Blackwell said. “We planned on running it inside and pounding them to maybe get the edge.

“We fell away from that and I don’t know what the reason for that is. Our game plan just fell apart.

“We got away from the things we’ve been doing all season, and whenever you do that in a championship game it usually doesn’t work out for you very well.”

LSU finally succumbed to all the adversity. For a team that fed off the negativity, the Tigers weren’t ready for Alabama. There was no game-changing play from the Honey Badger, the defense didn’t force any turnovers, there was no emotion in the second half and the offense never showed up.

For the defense, Monday must have hurt the most. They hunkered down near their own end zone and played well enough to win.

In the end, LSU’s defense just couldn’t play both ways for the Tigers.

“It was very disappointing,” linebacker Ryan Baker said. “We were clawing and fighting out there and we were just sitting back watching them go three-and-out.”

1. Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones, on Trent Richardson's 34-yard touchdown down the left sideline -- Jones’ side of the field -- after 116 minutes of football against LSU this season: “We finally finished that drive. That was probably the most fun touchdown I’ve ever scored. Two games of frustration of not finding the end zone, just to seal the deal, that was a great feeling.”

2. Alabama won the first shutout in BCS bowl history and the Crimson Tide’s first bowl shutout since the 1963 Orange Bowl, a 17-0 victory over Oklahoma with President John F. Kennedy in attendance. That game was best known for All-American linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, who made 31 tackles in his final college game. This one will be known for Alabama allowing LSU only 92 total yards. The Tigers didn’t cross midfield until midway through the fourth quarter. The Alabama defensive tradition continues.

3. The BCS commissioners meet Tuesday in New Orleans to begin discussions of how to change the postseason. A plus-one will be discussed; a larger format is unlikely. The commissioners, many of whom have served on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee, are wary of the pitfalls (In a four-team seeded format this year, No. 4 Stanford would have made it; No. 5 Oregon, the Pac-12 champ that beat Stanford by three touchdowns, would not). Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said Monday, “How can it work in all the other sports but it can’t work in college football?”

Video: Alabama's Jeremy Shelley

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
2:06
AM ET


Chris Low interviews Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley following Alabama's victory in the Allstate BCS National Championship.

Video: Alabama's Kevin Norwood

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
2:04
AM ET


Chris Low interviews Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood following Alabama's victory in the Allstate BCS National Championship.

Video: Alabama's Mark Barron

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
2:00
AM ET


Chris Low interviews Alabama defensive back Mark Barron following Alabama's victory in the Allstate BCS National Championship.

Video: Alabama's Coutney Upshaw

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
1:57
AM ET


Courtney Upshaw, who was voted the defensive MVP of the Allstate BCS National Championship Game, discusses Alabama's win, fulfilling Nick Saban's promise and his motivation.

Video: Alabama's William Vlachos

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
1:55
AM ET


Chris Low talks to Alabama's William Vlachos after the BCS title game about winning two championships in three years, the Tide's game plan and his postgame plans.

SPONSORED HEADLINES