Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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26 JANUARY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT After making a much-needed defensive stop on the opening series of the second half, Notre Dame was still within striking distance with a 21-7 deficit and faced second-and-seven from its 37. But while rolling to his right, fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book's intended pass to freshman tight end Michael Mayer was under- thrown and intercepted by Alabama sophomore linebacker Christian Harris at his 38-yard line with 7:27 left in the third quarter. On the first play after the game's lone turn- over — and only the third interception toss of the year by Book — Alabama redshirt junior quarter- back Mac Jones found sophomore wideout John Metchie III on a 40-yard slant. Shortly thereafter, Jones connected with the game-changing DeVonta Smith from seven yards — after scrambling for nine yards on third-and-four — for their third touchdown with 4:58 remaining. That provided a pretty much insurmountable 28-7 cushion. This se- quence ended any hopes of a Fighting Irish upset. STATS OF THE GAME Just like in the BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame in January 2013, a 42- 14 Crimson Tide victory, Alabama scored touch- downs on its first three possessions in this Rose Bowl, with the drives covering 79, 97 and 84 yards. The third came after the Irish tallied their own touchdown to pull within 14-7. Unlike in 2013 when it was 28-0 at halftime, Notre Dame trailed only 21-7 at the intermission this time, but the early Crimson Tide surge again was too much to overcome. On paper, Notre Dame fulfilled its objective of running more plays (80-55) and controlling the clock (33:43-26:17), highlighted by the first touchdown march that took 8:03. Alabama had only four possessions in the first half, but the ex- plosiveness of its quick-strike attack trumped the methodical, patient attack of the Irish. It could have been a boost to Notre Dame's morale to take an early lead, but the Crimson Tide was up 14-0 after its first two series. FAMILIAR PATTERN The game had a feel similar to the 34-10 loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship Dec. 19. The Irish fell behind 24-3 at halftime against the Tigers, but the defense responded well and lim- ited them to 10 points in the second half, just like with Alabama. In both cases, the opposition was in control. Notre Dame's defense held Alabama to its low- est point total in 25 games and 19 points under its season average, but the Irish offense contin- ued to sputter in marquee game settings. In its eight defeats since 2017, the Irish have scored only 105 points (13.1 per game) and never more than 20, usually not possessing nearly the firepower in the passing game that the opposi- tion does. Overall, Notre Dame's defense has responded well in most of these grand-stage games, but where the Irish are consistently lacking is punch on offense to stay with the upper tier who rou- tinely average 44 to 50 points per contest. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: RB KYREN WILLIAMS The sophomore running back was a warrior against Alabama, constantly putting his body on the line and fighting for every yard against a large and physical Crimson Tide defense. By the end of the game, Williams had touched the ball 24 times for 95 yards and one touchdown. His touchdown and the major- ity of his yards (64 on 16 carries) came on the ground, but Williams set a career high with eight receptions, surpassing his previous per- sonal best of four. DEFENSE: LB DREW WHITE The senior linebacker will likely be back in 2021, and he finished off the season with one of the best games of his career. He was all over the field against the Crimson Tide, frequently getting to the ball first among Fighting Irish defenders. White ended the Rose Bowl with nine tack- les, which tied sixth-year senior safety Shaun Crawford for the Notre Dame lead. Six of his stops resulted in Crimson Tide gains of three yards or fewer. SPECIAL TEAMS: P JAY BRAMBLETT With the Fighting Irish offense struggling to move the ball throughout much of the game, the sophomore punter did all he could to force Alabama into poor field position. The Tuscaloosa, Ala., native punted the ball four times and averaged 47.2 yards. This fea- tured three punts of 50 yards or more. He also pinned the Crimson Tide inside the 5-yard line once. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY ANDREW MENTOCK Sophomore running back Kyren Williams demonstrated his toughness and versatility against the Alabama defense. He finished with a career-high eight receptions while gaining 95 total yards and scoring one touchdown on 24 total touches. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL

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