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January 7, 2013MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. | It was a sign of respect for its defense, but when Notre Dame won the toss and elected to defer until the second half it didn't do its offense any favors. And after that it may have been too late.
The Fighting Irish offense, which didn't actually burn up score boards this season, ran just seven plays in the first stanza and by the time it touched the ball in the second quarter it was down by 21 points. Those plays netted 23 yards, an average of a paltry 3.3 a play. It was simply foreshadowing of what was to come for the team in the sparkling gold helmets.
It was C.J. Mosley flashing sideline to sideline to chase down runners. It was Quinton Dial slamming a carrier in the backfield. It was Dee Milliner and Deion Belue swatting away passes. It was a mauling Alabama defense that played like it wanted to remind Notre Dame why the SEC is the SEC. The Crimson Tide performed as if to shut up the critics who said the unit was vulnerable.
Mosley played like a man possessed, as if also to prove his detractors wrong. The ones that say he is a phenomenal athlete but too small to play against a physical rushing attack at the next level.
The Theodore junior linebacker finished with a team-high eight tackles, including seven solo stops and one tackle for loss. He was named the game's defensive MVP.
"I work hard at what I do," Mosley said. "I have to thank the coaches for letting me start my official first game of the season. I did what I had to do to make the plays.
"That's the Alabama standard. From the beginning, before we were even born way back in the 60s, that's Alabama defense. Smash-mouth football and getting off the field on third down."
His teammates knew the Crimson Tide's defensive leader would show up with a chip on his shoulder.
"C.J. is one of the best players I've ever played with," Damion Square said. "That man, his athletic ability is amazing, man. His will to play football, his will to be great. I can't call a weakness in any area."
Notre Dame made a few plays in the second quarter, but it never threatened to score and by the half the game was trending swiftly toward out of reach.
Freshman quarterback Everett Golson finished the first half with 93 yards and Theo Riddick had five carries for 22 yards. It wasn't nearly enough to keep the game close.
Showing a little pride on its first series of the third quarter, Notre Dame mounted a drive into Alabama territory, but even that ended poorly.
Dee Milliner tipped a Golson pass and sophomore safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix came over grabbed the ball and drove his right foot into the turf to complete the interception. Alabama drove 93 yards for a score and the game was all but over.
By the time the Fighting Irish plowed into the end zone on a Golson option keeper - a score which snapped Alabama's more than 108-minute BCS National Championship Game scoreless streak - there were four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
For the game Golson was 21 of 36 for 270 yards a touchdown and an interception.
Square said Alabama used the month off to improve.
"We went back and watched film," Square said. "You've got to watch your mistakes because your opponents will. You've got to know the areas where you're weak. You've got to try and fix those areas so you won't get exploited again."
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