The University of Alabama became the third school since 1936 to win college football’s national championship three times in a four-year span with a 42-14 rout of the University of Notre Dame.
Alabama junior quarterback AJ McCarron threw four touchdown passes, while Crimson Tide running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon each rushed for more than 100 yards and a touchdown last night at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium.
It’s the 11th consensus national championship for Alabama, which becomes the first school in the 15-year history of the Bowl Championship Series to win back-to-back titles. The Crimson Tide, who finished the season with a 13-1 record, also won BCS championships following the 2009 and 2011 seasons.
“It was a total team effort and I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” McCarron said in a televised interview. “All the hard work we put in during the season, it really paid off and this is what we do it for.”
Notre Dame lost for the first time in 13 games this season and was denied its first national championship since 1988.
Alabama dominated from the start against a Fighting Irish defense that had allowed 10.33 points a game this season, the fewest at college football’s top level.
Alabama scored touchdowns on its first three possessions and outgained Notre Dame 203-23 in total yards in rolling to a 21-0 lead. The Crimson Tide was up 35-0 midway through the third quarter, finished with 529 yards of offense and had five scoring drives of 80 yards or more. Notre Dame hadn’t allowed a touchdown drive of more than 75 yards all season.
“Our offense did a great job,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after winning his fourth BCS crown in 10 years. “They controlled the whole tempo of the game.”
Alabama’s latest championship continues its run of success under Saban, becoming the first school to win consecutive titles since the University of Nebraska in 1994-95. The only other school to win consensus back-to-back titles since 1950 was the University of Oklahoma in 1955-56.
Nebraska also won in 1997, giving it three titles in four years. Notre Dame won championships in 1946, 1947 and 1949.
Saban, who won his first BCS title in 2003 while at Louisiana State University, becomes the fourth coach at college football’s top level to win four championships. He joins Alabama’s Bear Bryant (6), Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy (4) and the University of Southern California’s John McKay (4). Saban, 61, earned a $400,000 title bonus on top of his $5.9 million salary.
“I’m proud of these guys, I’m happy for them,” Saban said as he was surrounded on the field by his players. “As a coach, I want to win the game for them. I want them to be able to say their legacy as a team 10, 20 years from now is that they won a national championship.”
Alabama, which was a 9 1/2-point favorite, now has a record 34 bowl victories and gives the Southeastern Conference its seventh straight BCS title. In addition to the Crimson Tide’s wins, Auburn won in 2010, Florida claimed championships in 2006 and 2008, and LSU captured the BCS title in 2007.
“I’m really proud that they stayed focused and kept the right mental disposition to do the things they needed to do to be successful this season,” Saban said.
Notre Dame was the first team to reach the BCS title game after starting the season unranked. Brigham Young in 1984 is the last school to win the championship without being ranked entering the season.
The Fighting Irish have now lost 11 of their past 13 bowl games, including two in a row.
“We’re not there yet,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Alabama showed us that the way they played the game. It’s up to everyone coming back to take that next step.”
The Fighting Irish surrendered a 20-yard touchdown run by Lacy on the game’s opening drive and a 1-yard run by Yeldon, a freshman, on the first play of the second quarter to fall behind 21-0. Notre Dame had allowed a total of two rushing touchdowns through its first 12 games this season.
McCarron completed 20 of 28 passes for 264 yards in becoming the first quarterback to lead his team to back-to-back BCS titles. Florida State’s Chris Weinke, Miami’s Ken Dorsey and USC’s Matt Leinart all won in their first appearances in the BCS championship game and then lost the second.
“It’s pretty special,” McCarron said. “It gives me chills thinking about it. I owe everything to my teammates, coaching staff. They made this all possible.”
McCarron threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Michael Williams and an 11-yarder to Lacy with 31 seconds left in the first half as Alabama led 28-0 at halftime. Before last night, the most points allowed by Notre Dame this season was in a 29-26 triple-overtime win against Pittsburgh on Nov. 3.
After a deep pass by Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was intercepted at the Alabama 3-yard line on the Irish’s first drive of the second half, the Crimson Tide marched 97 yards for another touchdown. McCarron capped the drive with a 34-yard pass to freshman Amari Cooper for a 35-0 Alabama lead.
Golson finally put Notre Dame on the scoreboard with 4:08 left in the third quarter by scoring on a 2-yard quarterback option. It was the first score in the past two BCS title games against Alabama, which shut out Louisiana State 21-0 last year.
The Crimson Tide responded with an 86-yard scoring drive that culminated in McCarron’s fourth touchdown pass, a 19-yarder to Cooper. Notre Dame’s final touchdown came on a 6-yard pass from Golson to Theo Riddick with 7:51 left.
While Alabama and Notre Dame have combined for 1,692 wins, the schools met only twice before in bowl games. Saban said last night he’d enjoy his latest title for 48 hours before shifting his focus to next season.
“This team did a great job from the word go and I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish,” Saban said. “But two days from now, we’ve got to start on next year.”