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January 7, 2013

Alabama offense too much for Notre Dame

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. | On a night with so much at stake, the University of Alabama's offense was too much for Notre Dame.

Too much muscle, too much power in the running game.

Too much precision, too much speed in the passing attack.

Just much too much.

The Crimson Tide utilized pretty much every weapon it brought into the BCS National Championship Game on Monday night, and bludgeoned the Fighting Irish in a 42-14 victory.

UA's first two offensive drives set the tone. Alabama went 82 yards in five plays to start things off, showing quick-strike ability with a 29-yard AJ McCarron-to-Kevin Norwood pass and a 20-yard touchdown run by Eddie Lacy.

The Crimson Tide was more methodical when it got the ball back soon after, going 61 yards in 10 plays. Alabama found out it could grind out yards with punishing runs and short passes and capped the march with McCarron's 3-yard touchdown toss to tight end Michael Williams.

By that point, less than 10 minutes into the Bowl Championship Series title game, it was apparent that Alabama, when it possessed the ball, could do whatever it wanted.

Alabama ran right at the most decorated defensive player in the history of college football, Manti Te'o. UA blockers chipped at him and runners side-stepped him. In fact, the Crimson Tide shoved aside a vaunted defensive front seven rated by many as the best in the nation like it was a youth-league team.

Even some UA players were surprised it was so easy.

"I didn't expect us to win this big, but I had big expectations for the game," said freshman wideout Amari Cooper, who caught six passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. "We're relentless, we're a great team. We executed everything like we wanted to."

Alabama stared down a defense that had given up just two rushing touchdowns all season and punched in its second ground score on the first play of the second quarter.

Against a Notre Dame defense that was giving up, on average, 92.4 yards per game on the ground, Alabama had 153 by halftime. Facing a unit that was yielding only 10.3 points per game, UA had scored 28 by intermission.

"We're controlling the line of scrimmage," UA coach Nick Saban said at halftime. "We're running the ball and we've got good balance and that's what we want to have."

In the final analysis, that balance was uncanny: 265 rushing yards and 264 passing yards.

McCarron threw for four touchdowns. Lacy rambled for 140 yards and a score and rookie T.J. Yeldon trampled Notre Dame defenders for another 108 rushing yards and a touchdown.

McCarron, MVP of the previous year's championship game, completed 20 of 28 attempts in a flawless performance.

"I like big games," McCarron said. "That's one thing I've always kind of thrive on is big games. I feel like I play the best in the biggest game or the biggest situation."

UA's offensive line, which protected McCarron and opened holes for the running backs, was the key.

"I feel like we just grinded the whole four quarters," Williams said. "Alabama football is all about grinding. I feel like we imposed our will on our opponent tonight, and that's what we came to do."

Reach Tommy Deas at tommy@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0224.

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