MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.–Before Monday night’s BCS championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama wide receiver Bobby Toma attempted to put the match-up into some sort of popular perspective.
“Forrest Gump (Alabama) vs. Rudy (Notre Dame),” said Toma, referring to a pair of hit movies involving loyalties to the two schools.
On Monday night before the biggest crowd ever to see a game in Sun Life Stadium (80,120), Rudy never showed up and Forrest never stopped running.
In a best of times, worst of times setting Alabama was great and Notre Dame was horrible as the Tide took the opening kickoff and went 82 yards in 5 plays for a 7-0 lead. By the half it was 28-0. Five minutes into the 3rd quarter it was 35-0.
When the final seconds ticked off the clock, the final score told a simple and emphatic story: Alabama 42 Notre Dame 14.
The Sun Life Stadium public address announcer’s steady calls of “Touchdown Alabama” was reminiscent of the infamous calls of “Time out Pennsylvania” which had been repeated and repeated in the 1979 Final Four when a Cinderella Ivy League champion Penn team’s season ended with a 101-79 loss to a Michigan State team led by Magic Johnson.
Nothing the Irish tried seemed to work, while almost everything Alabama did ended in TD’s.
Notre Dame came into the game with a 12-0 record, a No. 1 ranking and visions of winning their first national championship in football since 1988.
ND left the field exposed as the team many had projected in September when the Irish began the season unranked facing a schedule in which they appeared to be overmatched in at nearly half of their games.
Instead, they won them all, using luck, skill and a combination of whatever mystique has often surrounded the Irish.
It worked through scares against Stanford, Pittsburgh and BYU. It worked against long time rivals such as Michigan State, Michigan and USC.
It didn’t work against Alabama and coach Nick Saban, who now has won back to back national championships, three in the last four years and four titles overall, which puts him closer and closer to the Paul “Bear” Bryant category in Tuscaloosa. . The highly praised Southeastern Conference now has won 7 consecutive national championships.
How bad was it? Orange Bowl PR chief Larry Wahl received a phone call at halftime of Monday night’s game when someone named “Brian” called to ask if the shuttle back to the media hotel would start running before the end of the game.
No, it wasn’t ND coach Brian Kelly, but Kelly wouldn’t have been missed in a game which lost all of its sense of drama and anticipation after the first 10 minutes.
It would be easy to call ND a fraud as a No. 1 team. The Irish won all of their games, but they never fit comfortably into the role of a dominant team. They overcame their own mistakes and their opponents mistakes to win all of their games and elevate themselves to the top rung in college football.
But against an Alabama team which had already made the climb to the top a year ago, they weren’t good enough.
“Our guys clearly know what it (a championship team) looks like,” said Kelly. “That’s something you have to measure yourself against. Now it is pretty clear what we need to do and we have to move from where we are, which was a 12-0 football team, but we simply were not good enough.”
Notre Dame ‘s All American linebacker Manti T’eo, who had a nondescript game, tried to put the loss into proper perspective. “We’re close, but we’re not there yet,” said T’eo.
For Alabama, it was good enough and Saban acknowledged that. He also did not dismiss the talk of dynasty as he did a year ago when he said that simply wining one title did not guarantee anything.
“They (players) repeated,” said Saban. “So they can talk about it as much as they want. This team exceeded every expectation we had for them. I have never been prouder of a group of young men for what they were able to accomplish.”
The players were clearly thrilled about wining back-to-back titles. “I get chills thinking about it,” said Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, who had another spectacular evening, completing 20 of 28 passes for 264 yards and 4 TD passes.
Saban was asked about his almost calm post game demeanor, which has been part of his persona after each of his four national titles.
“Whether I look it or not, I’m happy as hell,” said Saban.
Which he very well should be–for at least a day until he starts worrying about and preparing for next season.
© 2013, Mark. All rights reserved.