I can’t remember being as excited for a game as I was last night for Notre Dame. I truly believed there was something special about this team, and that they could overcome the superior talent of Alabama through sheer heart, desire and divine intervention.
Boy was I wrong.
The game reminded me of 7th grade. Unless you went through puberty at age 9, this was probably a year you’d like to forget. For me it was a year filled with acne, tapered jeans, and a voice change which occurred during my performance of the “Little Drummer Boy” at the winter concert. From kindergarten through sixth grade I went to nearly all white, middle class, Tatnuck School in Worcester MA. My friends were people that went on to college and successful careers, like Orlando Magic General Manager Robbie Hennigan. I played basketball and thought I was pretty good.
That is until I got to Sullivan Middle School.
I was a freckled kid from a 2-parent home who only spoke English. I stood out like a sore thumb. The kids at Sullivan were from strange neighborhoods that I had never heard of, never mind spent any time in. They were loud and aggressive and talked back to teachers. They used words I had never heard of before and were very aggressive. During gym class I was the last to be picked for basketball. Even though I knew I could play, I was intimidated. When I got the ball I froze up and had it taken from me. When I tried to lay it up I didn’t go strong, and was blocked. It was like I had never dribbled a ball before.
Last night Notre Dame got a taste of my 7th grade experience.
When Alabama came out of the tunnel Notre Dame was waiting. Bama players ran by the Irish like the Sioux at Little Big Horn, except with a dirty south feel to it. They jumped up and down, taunting the Notre Dame players and flashing weird signs with their fingers while yelling what I’m sure was non-sensical English. Notre Dame didn’t take the bait. They stood there, focused and disciplined, led by their leader Manti Te’o. This made me feel confident that the Irish came to play, and Bama came to dance, act like idiots and commit penalties.
It turns out they were shitting their Irish pants.
The teams then came out for the coin toss. Captain Chance Warmack came out in what I assume was his Pop Warner jersey. It reminded me of Fat Bastard from Austin Powers, who seemingly thought that his layers of fat were intimidating. I google imaged him and found that this is apparently how he dresses for all games and practices. No way guys like Chance Warmack can beat Manti Te’o and the Irish.
Oh wait, they’re confident for a reason.
The game started out great. At least for the first 30 seconds. The opening kick return by Alabama was kept inside the 20 yard line. I went nuts. The first play from scrimmage was a run play that was stuffed at the line of scrimmage for no gain. I went nuts and was picturing the championship I knew we would inevitably win. This was my climax of the night.
Then 2nd down came.
AJ Mccarron used play action to find a wide open receiver for a 25 yard completion. Game over.
From that point on Alabama did whatever they wanted. Their offensive line has been bred to play football through intensive training at Denny’s. They controlled the line of scrimmage and created huge holes. Turns out Eddie Lacey didn’t need any of those holes because he could just run over whoever he wanted. You knew it was going to be a long game when Lacey scored the first touchdown by breaking away from a Te’o tackle at the line of scrimmage. Can’t say I’ve seen that happen all season. He had the worst game of his career at the most important time. He’s still the man though. Love that dude.
The Irish got a welcome to the SEC that was essentially the same I got at Sullivan Middle. They were scared and lacked the confidence to do any of the things that got them to the championship game. They had no response to all of the taunting. They couldn’t even come close to matching their speed, strength and size. Bama got around every corner. They made juke moves in open space that made Notre Dame look like the guy who gets his pants pulled down in an And 1 video.
I watched play after play made by a bunch of guys in Crimson who will be playing on Sundays. I didn’t know the names, but I kept seeing the numbers: 6, 32, 28, 75, 4, 9, 8, and of course 10. AJ McCarron is a lot better than I thought. He was leagues above Everett Golson. When Notre Dame was down 14-0 they had no shot. It’s just too much to expect a limited passer like Golson to come back against a team that is so much faster and stronger. The only way Notre Dame could have won is by being opportunistic. The referees took that away from them immediately, with perhaps the worst back to back calls I’ve seen outside of the NBA. The non-catch by Tyler Eiffert, followed by the fair-catch interference made the NFL’s replacement refs seem like seasoned professionals. Make no doubt about it though: the refs had absolutely ZERO impact on this game.
If all the players from both teams lined up and Saban and Kelly picked 11 offensive and defensive guys each to play with, 35 of the 44 players they picked would be on Alabama. Seriously, after Eiffert, Nix, Te’o, Riddick, Tuitt and a couple offensive linemen, the entire roster was way out of its league. Zeke Motta can handle receivers from Purdue but not from Bama. Robby Toma and T.J. Jones are OK receivers, but can’t do special things like the Bama receivers can.
Long story short, this was one of the worst championship games in history, and not just because the Irish got destroyed. You wanted to see two teams on an equal level go at it. You didn’t get that this year. Make no doubt about it though, Notre Dame deserved to be there and I’ll never forget what they accomplished this season.