Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

After 3rd Title in 4 Years, Alabama Can Say It: Dynasty ; Game with Notre Dame Isn't Even Close as Tide Dominate on Both Sides

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

After 3rd Title in 4 Years, Alabama Can Say It: Dynasty ; Game with Notre Dame Isn't Even Close as Tide Dominate on Both Sides

Article excerpt

Notre Dame held the Crimson Tide in check on its first play on offense, but it all went downhill from there as Alabama won handily, 42-14.

They called the college football game played here a national championship, a title clash for the ages, epic, monumental, historic.

Then Notre Dame kicked the ball off.

Then the University of Alabama drove down the field, unimpeded, as if out for a nighttime stroll. It all went downhill from there, for the University of Notre Dame and for those interested in the most overhyped college football game in years. Instead, this national championship ended early, almost immediately, in a flurry of Alabama touchdowns that allowed the Crimson Tide to seize their third title in four seasons, 42-14, with all the ease predicted by the oddsmakers, sapping this game of all competitiveness or drama.

This was "Rudy," the sequel, after he stumbled onto Elm Street.

Alabama jumped to a 14-0 lead after one quarter Monday and opened up a 28-0 advantage by the half, as Notre Dame fans streamed for the exits and the beer lines. Afterward, Alabama fans held newspapers with the headline "BAMA! AGAIN!" and chanted "S! E! C!" as defensive lineman Quinton Dial grabbed the school flag from a cheerleader and sprinted across the end zone.

The game itself brought to mind a quote from the boxer Mike Tyson. Everybody has a plan, he said -- until getting punched in the face. On Monday, Alabama bludgeoned Notre Dame, repeatedly. It controlled the game with both lines, on offense and defense, putting on a clinic in power football. It ran all over a defense known for its ability to stop the run. Alabama (13-1) so dominated that it reminded sports fans that national Basketball Association games were also available for viewing at the same time, and that Notre Dame's best chance for a national title is now in women's basketball.

This only strengthened the claim few at Alabama had dared to make before Monday night: that Coach Nick Saban, who flopped in two forgettable seasons in the National Football League on this very field at Sun Life Stadium as coach of the Miami Dolphins, has created a college football dynasty. This was his fourth national championship and the third since he left the Dolphins to return to college football at Alabama. One could easily argue it was also his most impressive.

In the locker room, surrounded by teammates in gray championship hats and T-shirts, linebacker Nico Johnson blurted out words that only a senior could. For the underclassmen, Saban continued to ban the d-word. "O.K., I can say it now," Johnson said. "This is a dynasty."

Only two other college coaches can claim at least four titles. One is John McKay of the University of Southern California. The other is Paul Bryant, the coach known as Bear who made Alabama football famous.

Now there is Saban, a coach who must contend with fewer scholarships than were afforded coaches in the Bryant era and who faces far stiffer competition. Yet despite those limitations, Saban runs a program that resembles a 33rd N.F.L. team as much as it does a college football powerhouse. This season, despite a close loss to Texas A&M University, only reinforced that notion.

Saban spent all of last week scoffing at any comparison between himself and Bryant, and this from a man with a 9-foot-tall, or nearly 3-meter, statue of himself outside his office. Those close to him knew what another championship meant. "There's no question," said Kirby Smart, his defensive coordinator. "There's no question he is driven to be the greatest coach in the game. …

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