As most of the country expected, the Alabama Crimson Tide won the Rose Bowl, cruising to a victory in a game that was never in doubt. Head Coach Nick Saban had his players fired up and ready to go. On the other side, Head Coach Brian Kelly had his outmatched Fighting Irish ready, too. And despite the lopsided result, the Irish fought valiantly. In a game with very few mistakes on either side, Alabama’s talent was simply too much to overcome.
Crimson Tide Wins the Rose Bowl
Alabama Jumps Out Early
Alabama played as close to perfect as a team can in the first half. The game started with a big hit by the Crimson Tide on the opening kickoff that sent an early message: the Crimson Tide were bringing their best. Alabama’s defense forced the Irish to a quick punt on their opening drive. Alabama’s offense followed that with a commanding 7-play, 78-yard drive capped by a Mac Jones throw to Devonta Smith for a 26-yard touchdown.
The Crimson Tide again forced a punt on Notre Dame’s next drive. Alabama followed that with a second quick-strike. Following a 53-yard rumble by Najee Harris that showed his tremendous athleticism. Met with early resistance, Harris hurdled his defender and finally lost balance and went out of bounds inside the red zone. On the very next play, Jones hit Jahleel Billingsley for a 12-yard touchdown pass.
Notre Dame Tries to Answer in the Second Quarter
Notre Dame answered with a touchdown on its following drive. Kelly dialed up a well-executed sustained drive that ate eight minutes off of the clock. With heavy doses of Ian Book, Chris Tyree, and Kyren Williams in a ground-and-pound attack, Notre Dame drove 75 yards. Williams pushed his way into the end zone on fourth-and-inches. Like that, Notre Dame cut the lead to 14-7.
But Alabama flexed its quick-strike muscle yet again on the following drive. In just six plays covering 84 yards, the Crimson Tide widened the gap back to 14. They went up 21-7 on Smith’s second touchdown reception of the game. This time, Jones connected with Smith for a 34-yard pitch-and-catch.
The teams traded punts on the next two drives. Going into the half, Notre Dame sustained another drive that stalled just outside the 30. However, Jonathan Doerer‘s 51-yard field goal attempt fell short, and Alabama went into the locker room holding a 21-7 lead.
Both teams played nearly perfect in the first half. Neither team turned the ball over, and neither team drew any flags in that half. While Alabama struck early and often, it looked like Notre Dame might keep a close pace. They certainly did all they could to keep the game manageable.
Even so, Alabama never looked back after jumping out to their early lead. They piled up 280 yards to Notre Dame’s 189 in the first half. More, Alabama averaged 10 yards per play in that first half. Honestly, it seemed like more by that point.
Alabama Holds On
Notre Dame forced Alabama into a punt on its opening drive of the second half. The Irish, however, could not capitalize as Christian Harris picked off Book just as Notre Dame looked to be driving. Alabama again struck quickly, managing 62 yards on just six plays. For the third time of the evening, Jones connected with Smith in the end zone, this time a seven-yard strike.
After forcing Notre Dame to punt, Alabama’s perfect kicker, Will Reichard added a 41-yard field goal. With that, Alabama held a 31-7 lead with just under 13 minutes left in the game. Alabama forced the Irish to turn the ball over on downs on its next drive, but they could not capitalize. After a punt, Notre Dame drove 80 yards to punch the ball into the end zone on a one-yard Ian Book touchdown run.
At the end of the day, Notre Dame’s final score covered the spread. But Notre Dame was not finished quite yet. Curiously, Kelly dialed up a successful onside kick with under a minute left. Down by three scores, there was no way the Irish could have come back. But it seems Kelly just wanted to send a message that his guys were not going to give up, even where the odds were impossible. Regardless of the message, the call was certainly controversial, and Alabama stopped the Irish short to end the game.
Crimson Tide Wins the Rose Bowl
Despite decent games from Book (who finished with over 280 total yards and a rushing touchdown) and Williams (who added nearly 100 yards and a rushing touchdown), Alabama closed it out by a final score of 31-14. Jones completed 84% of his passes for 303 yards, four touchdowns, and no turnovers. Smith piled up 131 yards on seven receptions. His three touchdown receptions set a Rose Bowl record and an Alabama bowl record. Harris added 125 yards on 15 carries and 30 more yards on four receptions. Alabama’s trio simply dominated the game as we expected them to do. On those efforts, matched by a disciplined defensive performance, the Crimson Tide win the Rose Bowl and return to the national championship game.