Within the first two minutes of play, Alabama set the tone of the BCS National Championship game showing Notre Dame that they were clearly outmatched.
With an 82-yard march in only five plays to take a 7-0 lead early on, Alabama quickly quenched Notre Dame's hopes of going from unranked to undisputed this season in a crimson-and-white display of precise football.
The Irish were beaten by Alabama 42-14 in the title matchup on Monday night, the only loss in 13 games for a Notre Dame team that few thought would be a championship hopeful when the season began.
"I'm obviously disappointed, not necessarily all that we lost, but just we didn't represent our school, our team, our families the way that we could have," Notre Dame's star player,linebacker Manti Te'o, said.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly put it plain and simple: "All Alabama."
"We couldn't be happier with the way we came out and started the game," said Alabama center Barrett Jones, who played with torn ligaments in his left foot and will require surgery. "We knew we wanted to run the ball and hit them early, and I think that's what we did."
Alabama dominated with an offensive line that includes three All-Americans — first-teamers Jones and left guard Chance Warmack, and second-teamer D.J. Fluker at right tackle. They created gaping holes against a team ranked fourth in the nation in run defense, and neutralized Heisman Trophy finalist Te'o, who became a nonfactor.
And I'll forever be proud to say that I'm a Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
- Manti Te'o
"We just needed to execute better," Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta said. "It was just a matter of execution and playing the right way."
Missed chances on offense, missed tackles on defense. Kelly didn't pinpoint reasons why for either — months of agonizing over film will tell that story — but some in the Notre Dame locker room insisted that the final score didn't accurately show how far the Irish have come this season.
"They didn't dominate us," Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix said. "We missed tackles."
The numbers sure suggested domination.
By halftime, 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. The Crimson Tide finished with 529 yards, converted 8 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.
"Pretty darn good football team, but not good enough," Kelly said, assessing his team as Alabama's victory celebration was wrapping up on the field. "So it's clear what we need to do in the offseason."
What they do next will come without Te'o, who was widely considered the nation's top defensive player this season.
"The best thing about this experience is it creates fire, it creates fuel, for both the guys staying here and the guys leaving," Te'o said. "Everybody here tonight will be better because of it."
Te'o leaves as an absolute surefire Notre Dame fan favorite, for both what he did on the field and how he handled things away from the game.
He wound up finishing second in the Heisman Trophy race.
The Irish wound up finishing second in the national title chase.
And when it was all over, Te'o showed absolutely no regrets. He was subbed out of the game with about 2:15 remaining, shook some hands and started saying his farewell to the college game.
"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."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.