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Notre Dame Football

No. 1 Alabama vaults past No. 4 Notre Dame in CFP

January 1, 2021

For the most part, Notre Dame controlled tempo.

Top-ranked Alabama effectively controlled everything else.

The result Friday was the Crimson Tide marching past the No. 4 Fighting Irish, 31-14, in the Rose Bowl that served as one of the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs in front of 18,373 inside the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium.

Alabama (12-0) got a trio of touchdowns from wideout DeVonta Smith, who tied the Rose Bowl record in the process, and never led by fewer than seven points after its first touchdown less than five minutes into the game.

After it ran off 10-straight wins to open its only season as an Atlantic Coast Conference member, including a pivotal November win against former No. 1 Clemson, Notre Dame (10-2) ended its season with consecutive losses by a combined 65-24.

Notre Dame's touchdowns came as Kyren Williams punctuated his break-through All-ACC season with an early rush and when Ian Book capped his decorated career with his 17th rushing touchdown – leaving Book alongside Irish legend Rick Mirer on the school's all-time list for quarterbacks. Book finished 27-for-39 passing with 229 yards and one interception. Williams finished with 64 rushing yards on 16 carries and also caught eight passes for an additional 31 yards.

The Irish, under an effective game plan from first-year offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, controlled possession for almost 34 minutes and matched the Tide’s 24 first downs.

The Irish defense held Alabama more than 18 points below its season scoring average of 49-plus points per game and likewise snapped the Tide's streak of 24 games in a row with at least 35 points – the longest such streak in major college history.

“I was really proud of our players,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN, also praising his defense for corralling Book “about as well as you can do” in the game. “They've worked hard. We didn't come here to finish here. We didn't finish the game like we'd like. We'd like to take the air out of it on offense. I've always got something to complain about.

“Defensively, we got enough stops to be able to get off the field when we needed to. They've earned the opportunity to play in the National Championship and we'll see what we can do with it.”

Shaun Crawford and Drew White led Notre Dame with nine tackles apiece; sophomore third-team All-America safety Kyle Hamilton added seven stops, including a tackle for loss, and broke up a pass.

All-American Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah added six stops in what is expected to be his final game as an Irish player; Owusu-Koramoah could return for a senior season but has worked himself into a consensus first-round projection for the upcoming NFL Draft.

Smith, Rose Bowl Offensive MVP, scored on touchdowns that covered 26, 34 and seven yards for the Tide, who finished with 437 yards in just more than 26 minutes of possession. Bama tailback Najee Harris helpd set an early tone when he hurdled Notre Dame’s Nick McCloud on a 53-yard run to set up a Tide touchdown, part of Harris’ 125 rushing yards.

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