MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — 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 Monday night during 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 the 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, the game was every bit that one-sided. Even Irish coach Brian Kelly was 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 eight 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.
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 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 Fighting Irish held any of those titles.
It’s why Alabama will fly home today with its third national title trophy from the past 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.”
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 …” Te’o said. “Everybody here tonight will be better because of it.”