By that point, it was clear to everyone that Notre Dame’s hopes of winning its first national championship since 1988 were all done. But Alabama just poured it on.
‘‘We’ve got to get physically stronger, continue close the gap there,’’ said Brian Kelly, the Irish’s third-year coach. ‘‘Just overall, we need to see what it looks like. Our guys clearly know what it looks like now — a championship football team. That’s back-to-back national champions. That’s what it looks like. That’s what you measure yourself against there. It’s pretty clear across the board what we have to do.’’
Lacy’s 11-yard touchdown reception with 31 seconds left in the half left the Irish fans shaking the heads in disbelief, while the Alabama faithful broke out that familiar chant of ‘‘SEC! SEC! SEC!’’
Alabama made it 35-0 on McCarron’s second TD pass of the night, a 34-yarder to Cooper without a Notre Dame defender in sight.
The Irish finally scored late in the third quarter, a 2-yard run by quarterback Everett Golson that served no other purpose except to end Alabama’s remarkable scoreless streak in the BCS title games, which stretched to 108 minutes 7 seconds — the equivalent of nearly two full games.
The only BCS title game that was more of a blowout was Southern Cal’s 55-19 victory over Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl, a title that was later vacated because of NCAA violations.
Notre Dame went from unranked in the preseason to the top spot in the rankings by the end of the regular season. But that long-awaited championship will have to wait.
Golson completed his first season as the starter by going 21 of 36 for 270 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. But he got no help from the running game, which was held to 32 yards — 170 below the Irish’s season average.