No. 1 Tide crush No. 4 Irish to reach CFP final
Mac Jones threw four touchdown passes, three to DeVonta Smith, as top-ranked Alabama rolled to a 31-14 victory over fourth-ranked Notre Dame on Friday in the College Football Playoff semifinal contest at Arlington, Texas.
The dominating performance in the Rose Bowl pushed the Crimson Tide (12-0) into the CFP title game for the fifth time in the system’s seven seasons. Alabama, which won titles in 2015 and 2017, will face either second-seeded Clemson or third-seeded Ohio State in the title game on Jan. 11.
Jones completed 25 of 30 passes for 297 yards, and fellow Heisman Trophy finalist Smith caught seven passes for 130 yards. Najee Harris added 155 scrimmage yards (125 rushing, 30 receiving), and Jahleel Billingsley caught a touchdown pass for the Crimson Tide.
Ian Book rushed for a touchdown and completed 27 of 39 passes for 229 yards and one interception for the Fighting Irish (10-2). Kyren Williams rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown for Notre Dame, which lost in the semis for the second time in the past three seasons.
The Rose Bowl was moved from Pasadena to the Dallas area due to California’s COVID-19 protocols.
The quick-strike Alabama offense required just 7:08 of possession time to score touchdowns each of the first three times it had the ball.
The Crimson Tide traveled 79 yards on seven plays in 2:36 on its first drive, with Smith catching a short pass from Jones and traveling 26 yards down the left sideline for the score.
Harris set up the second touchdown with a 53-yard run in which he hurdled over Notre Dame’s Nick McCloud near the right sideline and raced to the Notre Dame 12-yard line. Jones connected with Billingsley on the next play to cap a five-play, 97-yard drive that took 2:11.
The Irish played keep-away for 8:03 on their next drive when they moved 75 yards on 15 plays. Williams scored on a 1-yard keeper on fourth down to pull Notre Dame within 14-7 with 11:16 left in the half.
Alabama answered quickly and Jones capped a six-play, 84-yard drive with a 34-yard scoring strike to Smith. The possession lasted 2:21 as the Crimson Tide took a 21-7 advantage with 8:49 remaining.
Book tried to rally Notre Dame in the third quarter but was intercepted by Christian Harris with 7:27 left. Alabama cashed in the takeaway with a five-play, 62-yard drive that took 2:29. Jones again threw a touchdown pass to Smith, this one a 7-yarder with 4:58 left in the stanza.
Book was shaken up and briefly left the game with 3:39 remaining in the quarter, missing two offensive plays, after being sacked by Alabama’s Christian Barmore.
He returned when Notre Dame next had the ball with 12:45 remaining in the game, right after Will Reichard booted a 41-yard field goal to push the Crimson Tide’s lead to 31-7.
Book scored on a 1-yard run with 56 seconds left to cap the scoring.
–Field Level Media