After the lights are out and the final words have been typed, the one lingering theme amidst the Bama dynasty run was just how badly Notre Dame was pounded in Miami. The epic buildup about the best defense in college football that had the best red zone numbers of any team merely flickers like a candle struggling to get the oxygen it needs to stay burning.
The fives stages of grief started to kick in around halftime down 28-0, and we could tell from the opening series that Notre Dame wasn’t SEC-ready.
The speed and trench play – the two aspects the SEC is known for – neutralized the Irish’s massive front seven, and they had to commit to bring another defender in the box to stop the run, something they didn’t have to do the entire season. Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon would hit them with right and left hooks, then quarterback AJ McCarron would land the play action haymaker for six.
Alabama completely took the Irish out of their game plan. Notre Dame is a downhill running team with 200-pound running backs who pounded the rock the entire season. Notre Dame ran the ball well over 50 percent of the time on offense throughout the year. They ran it just 19 times against Bama, only 35 percent of their total plays – season lows for both teams.
The Tide suffocated the Irish’s rushing attack, allowing just 32 yards on 19 carries.
And the Irish’s heralded defensive front seven didn’t fare any better. We’re talking about a legit front seven as there is in college football being pushed around like boys. The Tide rushed for 265 yards on 45 carries, averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
It was obvious the Irish had not seen an offensive line or rushing attack like the Tide the entire season.
UND players were in denial after the game. Massive nose tackle Louis Nix III, the Jacksonville, Florida native, pleaded his case that it wasn’t as bad as it looked, and it had more to do with the Irish’s bad play than Alabama’s good play.
“They did not dominate us,” the Fighting Irish nose guard insisted, after Alabama had pummeled the Fighting Irish 42-14. “Go back and look at the film. … I think they did have the best offensive line in the country, but they did not dominate our line. We just missed tackles.
“I wasn’t shocked at them. I was shocked at us, how we performed, on a national stage, biggest game of our lives.”
I’m shocked, too.
On college football’s biggest stage, Brian Kelly’s fears came true and Notre Dame was at their worst, namely linebacker Manti Te’o.
The heralded linebacker missed more tackles than he made, and he couldn’t shed any blockers the entire night. Te’o was in position to make the tackle on multiple occasions, but the two bruising backs in Yeldon and Lacy ran right through his arm tackles. He was neutralized from the opening snap, not because Alabama ran away from him, but because they took their game right to him; they targeted him. And he failed to show against SEC speed.
Everyone takes their beat downs; it’s part of college football. But to do it on the country’s biggest stage was embarrassing for Notre Dame, their fans and their players. And as evidenced by last night, the Irish would be sixth or seventh in the SEC this season. Alabama, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and LSU should beat the Irish on any given Saturday.
I’m not an SEC homer, either. I thought Notre Dame belonged in the game and would give the Tide a fistfight. Guilty as charged.
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