Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Huge Strides Needed for Irish to Take Next Step

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Huge Strides Needed for Irish to Take Next Step

Article excerpt

Ten minutes into Monday's BCS championship game, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly knew it was going to be a tough night. "We had a hard time getting off the field," said Kelly.

He meant from a defensive standpoint because that certainly wasn't a challenge for the Fighting Irish on offense. Struggling to move the chains against Alabama's dominant defense, they punted on four of their first five possessions and turned it over on downs once at the Alabama 39. After one quarter, Notre Dame had gained just 23 yards and Alabama was four seconds from taking a 21-0 lead.

By halftime the defending national champions led 28-0 and television viewers across America were searching for other entertainment options. Even ESPN announcer Brent Musburger had trouble keeping his focus on the game.

It's not often a No. 1 ranked and unbeaten team finds itself on the wrong side of a mismatch, but that was the case Monday night. All Kelly could do after Alabama's 42-14 victory at Sun Life Stadium near Miami was praise his team's senior leadership - led by linebacker and Heisman runner-up Manti Te'o - for just getting Notre Dame back into a meaningful postseason game.

"What they have done in a very short period of time to help elevate the program back into the spotlight, competing for a national championship, can never be repaid," he said. "Now it's up to those that return to take it one more step."

Make that one gigantic step.

As Alabama coach Nick Saban reminded everyone, his squad had an easier time winning another national title than it did becoming Southeastern Conference champs this season. And remember, last year the Tide won a second BCS championship in three years without even winning the SEC.

Now they've won three of the past four titles and are already talking about extending college football's latest dynasty another year. …

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