- Ivan Maisel, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
MIAMI -- The day before the Notre Dame defense did its best imitation of butter, head coach Brian Kelly said, "I still think this game is going to be decided by what happens up front."
He called it. He just couldn't do anything about it.
Actually, butter isn't accurate, because the Alabama offense was no hot knife. No. 2 Alabama won its third BCS National Championship in four years by bludgeoning poor No. 1 Notre Dame into submission. The 42-14 final score is a testament to the control the Crimson Tide's offensive line maintained at the line of scrimmage.
"It was pretty clear," Kelly said after the game. "I mean, we had a hard time getting off the field, and a lot of that had to do with Alabama. They ran the ball effectively."
Given the opportunity to play for its first national championship in 24 years, Notre Dame woke up the wrong echoes.
These were the Fighting Irish of 2008, not 1988. A defense that led the nation, averaging 10.33 points allowed per game, gave up four times that. You want balance? Alabama ran for 265 yards and threw for 264.
And the Crimson Tide's O-line dominated with one foot tied behind its back. All-American center Barrett Jones, with a torn ligament in his left foot that will necessitate surgery on Wednesday, estimated he played at "75 or 80" percent on Monday night.
"I think this may be the best offensive line, and I don't like to make comparisons, that we've ever had or been associated with," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.
"This group has a lot of experience, and they play with a lot of consistency. And the power, the toughness, how physical they are, I think is probably a pretty unique quality."
Quarterback AJ McCarron's white jersey had a single grass stain on the back of his right shoulder. When Jones shoved McCarron away as the quarterback barked at him after a delay penalty in the fourth quarter, it was the first time anyone laid hands on McCarron in the pocket all night.
"They were hyped, had a lot of fans out there," McCarron said. "That was the big thing, getting the fans out of it early. We came out, started fast. I think that touchdown right before the half broke their will a little."
Alabama dominated from the first possession, driving 82 yards in five plays to go ahead 7-0. That surpassed the longest scoring drive the Irish allowed this season. It got better. On its first possession of the second half, the Tide drove 97 yards for a touchdown to go ahead 35-0. The last 34 yards came when McCarron took the snap, set up on the left side and waited for Amari Cooper to run a deep crossing pattern. McCarron stood there like a man waiting for a bus.
Notre Dame's 3-4 defense has been stout all season. But it held no mystery for Alabama. The Tide see a 3-4 defense every week in practice. The Tide's defense uses that formation, too.
"They're good because they are so simple," Jones said, "but, also, they're simple. We knew if we had certain shifts, they would get into certain formations that we felt like we would have good runs against. We were right -- every play, almost. This is not a flaw in Notre Dame. We watched a lot of film. We had a lot of time to figure out what they did in certain formations."
Nearly every rushing play in the first quarter went to Warmack's side of the field. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier loved the matchup that the left side of his line -- Warmack, tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and tight end Michael Williams -- had from the left hash against the Notre Dame 3-4. Williams cleared out Irish linebacker Prince Shembo (one tackle, two assists) at will.
"Blocking for Eddie Lacy makes you look a whole lot better than you really are," Williams said. "You don't have to block as long when you have Eddie and T.J. [Yeldon] back there."
Poor Zeke Motta -- the Irish senior safety who averaged five tackles per game made nine in the first quarter. Behind Motta, there was only green grass.
Manti Te'o, the All-American linebacker, had one assist in the first quarter. Alabama ran 26 plays before Te'o got a second tackle shortly before halftime. The Irish's tackling technique of diving at a ball carrier's feet and grabbing his ankles may have worked against Michigan State and Boston College, but Lacy (140 yards) and T.J. Yeldon (108 yards) stepped out of those tackles with little problem.
"Eddie, I'm sad the season is over for him," Jones said, "because he has just been running the ball better every game not to mention T.J., also. The Notre Dame guys were telling me during the game, 'Man, these backs, they're awesome!'"
Bowl results are magnified in part because teams and coaches have eight months to stew about the result. If Kelly wants to protect his sanity, he'll never grade this game video. Better to let sleeping Irish lie.