No. 2 Alabama 42, No. 1 Notre Dame 14

Manti Te’o stood perfectly still as he took a long look at one

of the giant video screens in Sun Life Stadium, studying the replay

of an Alabama touchdown.

It was a pose that Notre Dame repeated way, way too often in the

BCS title game.

Te’o – the senior linebacker who was widely considered the

nation’s top defensive player this season – was a non-factor early

in Monday’s national championship, and that foreshadowed how the

rest of the night went for the Fighting Irish. Overmatched from the

opening possession, Notre Dame allowed season highs in points and

yardage, simply unable to stop the Crimson Tide.

Final score: Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14.

And yes, it was that one-sided of a game, one that even had

Irish coach Brian Kelly cracking a joke at his own expense in a

televised halftime interview.

”All Alabama,” Kelly said at the time. ”I mean, we can’t

tackle them right now. And who knows why? They’re big and physical

– I guess I do know why.”

Anyone who was watching knew why.

”Obviously we wish the night could have ended in a different

way,” Te’o said, ”but the season, the year, my career here, I’ve

been truly blessed to be at Notre Dame and I’ll forever be proud to

say that I’m a Notre Dame Fighting Irish, regardless of what

happened tonight.”

The lowlights were stacked high by the time this game was over.

Te’o missed a couple of tackles early, something he hardly ever did

this season. By halftime, when it was 28-0, the Irish had already

given up more points than they had in any game this season, the

previous high being 26 in a triple-overtime win over Pittsburgh.

The most yards Notre Dame gave up this season was 379; Alabama

cracked the 500 mark early in the fourth quarter.

Alabama finished with 529 yards, converted 8 of 13 third downs,

got five touchdowns in five trips to the red zone and became the

first team since Stanford in 2009 to score at least 42 points

against the Irish.

”We just needed to execute better,” safety Zeke Motta said.

”It was just a matter of execution and playing the right

way.”

Maybe the play that will be most replayed of all was the one

where Eddie Lacy essentially tackled Danny Spond.

The significance?

Well, Lacy was the Alabama ballcarrier at the time, holding the

football with one arm and sending Spond – one of Notre Dame’s top

linebackers – sprawling with the other as he rumbled past for an

extra yard or two.

”Pretty darn good football team, but not good enough,” Kelly

said, assessing his team as Alabama’s

crimson-and-white-confetti-filled victory celebration was wrapping

up on the field. ”So it’s clear what we need to do in the

offseason.”

Bigger, stronger, faster. By night’s end, it couldn’t be argued

that the Crimson Tide held all those titles.

It’s why Alabama will fly home Tuesday with its third national

title trophy from the last four seasons, no longer a budding

dynasty – but an established one.

”It’s a tough way to go out,” tight end Tyler Eifert said.

”We laid it all on the line, but at the end of the day, `Bama was

the better team.”

Notre Dame arrived at the title game on the cusp of what would

have been a fantasy scenario, that of being unranked at the start

of the season and the undisputed champions at the end of the

campaign.

After one play, it looked as if it might happen when Lacy was

stopped after a 1-yard gain, wrapped up just over the line of

scrimmage.

One play later, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron connected with

Kevin Norwood for 29 yards, placing a pass between two Notre Dame

defenders.

Such was the theme the rest of the night. Even when Notre Dame

had its moments, they didn’t last long. Lacy ran in from 20 yards

to cap that first Alabama drive, the Tide stretched the lead to

21-0 after one play of the second quarter, and the outcome was

never in doubt.

Some of the lower-bowl seats at Sun Life were being resold for

as much as $10,000 in the days before the game. The majority of

those seats were empty long before the finish, those fans for

whatever reason deciding they didn’t need to see yet another

Alabama coronation.

Notre Dame didn’t have the luxury those early departees did. The

Irish had to watch until the bitter end, and Te’o – even though his

college days are done – wants his team to remember what

happened.

”The best thing about this experience is it creates fire, it

creates fuel, for both the guys staying here and the guys

leaving,” Te’o said. ”Everybody here tonight will be better

because of it.”