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Notre Dame vs. Alabama: Postgame Grades for Irish's 2013 BCS National Title Loss

Matt BoczarContributor IIIJanuary 7, 2013

Notre Dame vs. Alabama: Postgame Grades for Irish's 2013 BCS National Title Loss

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    The Notre Dame Fighting Irish found the end zone again, but also gave up another score to the Alabama Crimson Tide before falling by an eventual final score of 42-14 in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game. 

    The Irish struggled defensively for much of the game and had few, if any, answers for the Crimson Tide offense. 

    Running back Eddie Lacy and quarterback AJ McCarron were able to lead a Crimson Tide scoring attack and offense that racked up more than 500 total yards. 

    Irish quarterback Everett Golson was the game's leading passer, but the ground game gained just 32 total yards.

    Let's take a look at the Irish's final postgame grades and evaluations.

Quarterback

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    Overall Game Grade: C-

    It’s hard to believe when looking at the scoreboard, but Everett Golson actually threw for more yards that Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

    Unfortunately, Golson also threw a great deal of incompletions along the way, and had little support from the ground game.

    Golson started off the first quarter by throwing two incompletions to tight end Tyler Eifert.  The Irish offense came out in a three-tight-end set and decided to go after Crimson Tide defensive back Dee Milliner early. 

    However, Eifert was ruled either out of bounds or not in possession of the ball on both pass attempts, as both were ruled incomplete.  Golson completed just two passes in the quarter.

    The second quarter saw Golson start to use his legs more, but the offense as a whole struggled to establish any sort of identity. 

    The first series saw the Irish open with two passing plays; the second series saw two run plays to start and the third saw one of each.  None of these sequences led to a touchdown. 

    Golson did manage to hit DaVaris Daniels twice for a total of 44 yards and Tyler Eifert for a total of 18 yards.

    Golson again looked to Daniels for a big completion after halftime, as the two connected on a 21-yard pass.  However, Golson was eventually intercepted by Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix in Crimson Tide territory. 

    The second drive of the third quarter saw Golson finally find success in the passing game.  The sophomore managed to find Daniels, Eifert and TJ Jones before rushing for a two-yard touchdown.  Golson did come up with a big pass to Jones on a 3rd-and-16 play.

    This would be the last big drive for Golson and the Irish, however.

    In the fourth quarter, Golson hit Daniels, Jones, Eifert and Cierre Wood before finding Theo Riddick in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown.

    For the game, Golson completed 21 of 36 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown and interception.

    Despite the lack of scoring and the interception, Golson still managed to complete more than 50 percent of his passes for the sixth straight game, while passing for his third-highest amount of yards in a game this season.

    Golson saw his protection break down multiple times against a talented Crimson Tide defensive line, but also looked to run too quickly on a few occasions. 

    Golson had minus-seven rushing yards, however, and was forced to try to establish a passing game while the rushing attack was being held in constant check.

Running Backs

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    Overall Game Grade: F

    The Irish knew they would have their work cut out for them against the Crimson Tide and one of the nation’s best run defenses, but 32 total yards is just not enough for a team that averaged 202.5 per game during the regular season.

    Theo Riddick was the leading rusher for the Irish, racking up 37 total yards and averaging 3.7 yards per carry.  However, 20 of these yards came on the first play of the second drive for the Irish in the second quarter.

    Meanwhile, Cierre Wood picked up just two yards on four carries, despite having rushed for 740 yards during the regular season.

    Quarterback Everett Golson also had minus-seven total rushing yards while looking as if he lacked confidence once the pocket broke down.  Golson’s longest rush came for just five yards.

    The Irish needed to have one of their strongest performances in terms of rushing against the Crimson Tide, just as the team had found success on the ground all season. 

    However, the Crimson Tide allowed just 1.7 yards per carry, essentially limiting the Irish offense to whatever success it could find through the air.

Wide Receivers

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    Overall Game Grade: B

    Only two wide receivers caught passes for the Irish, but they accounted for more than half of the team’s total yardage.

    Sophomore DaVaris Daniels had his biggest game of the season and was Everett Golson’s main deep target.  Daniels caught six passes for 115 yards and was the receiver that Golson often looked for when the Irish decided to go for a deep pass either on first or second down. 

    Daniels caught passes of 31, 21, 12 and 10 yards on passes that came on either the first or second play of various drives.

    Junior TJ Jones also had one of his biggest games of the season, catching seven passes for 90 yards.  This was Jones’ most receptions in a game this season and his second-highest amount of receiving yards.

Tight Ends

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    Overall Game Grade: B

    Tyler Eifert caught six passes for 61 yards in his finale with the Fighting Irish.  Eifert was looked to early in a matchup against Crimson Tide defensive back Dee Milliner, but the Irish were unable to complete consecutive passes near the sideline.

    The senior matched his season high in receptions but also had his fewest amount of receiving yards in a game since the Irish defeated Oklahoma earlier in the season. 

    Unfortunately, Eifert also caught four of his six passes in the first half against the Crimson Tide.

Offensive Line

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    Overall Game Grade: D

    The Irish offensive line had one of the most challenging tasks of any unit against the Crimson Tide, as it was forced to go up against an elite defensive line and run defense.

    However, the line still seemed to weaken as the game continued, forcing Everett Golson out of the pocket and making him decide whether to scramble or look downfield.  Unfortunately, Golson did not seem to have much confidence or success in scrambling.

    Meanwhile, the offensive line was only able to help the rushing attack pick up a total of 32 yards, and just 12 if Theo Riddick’s 20-yard second-quarter rush is not counted.

    The Irish also converted on just two of eight third-down attempts in the game.

Defensive Line

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    Overall Game Grade: D

    The Irish defensive line had to go up against a Crimson Tide offensive line led by Barrett Jones that featured multiple players likely to be playing on Sundays at some point.

    However, the Irish still had no answer for stopping Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon and the Crimson Tide ground game.

    Lacy managed to rush for 140 yards and a touchdown while averaging seven yards per carry.  Yeldon racked up another 108 yards and a touchdown and averaged just more than five yards per carry. 

    The Crimson Tide were able to gain 265 total yards on the ground against the Irish.

    Kapron Lewis-Moore got in on the action early and had his presence felt throughout the game before leaving with a leg injury.

    Louis Nix III was also in on plays despite being called for an offside penalty in the first quarter that helped get the Crimson Tide scoring started.

    The Crimson Tide converted eight of 13 third-down attempts and their only fourth-down attempt.  The team also had the ball for nearly twice as long as the Irish, largely due to its success on the ground.

Linebackers

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    Overall Game Grade: D

    The Irish entered the game with arguably the nation’s best linebacker in Manti Te’o and one of the country’s most dominant run defenses.

    However, the Irish defense struggled to stop the Crimson Tide rushing attack throughout the entire game, while the team’s linebackers allowed the Crimson Tide to gain nearly six yards, at least, on average per play.

    Dan Fox’s face-mask penalty helped the Crimson Tide score on their first possession of the first quarter, while Te’o, Prince Shembo and the rest of the Irish linebackers had few answers for both the ground and passing games.

    Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron was able to complete his share of deep passes, but started the game by completing short passes and using a play-action call to throw his first touchdown of the game.

    The Irish linebackers may have limited the number of big rushes gained by the Crimson Tide, but the unit still allowed two different players to run for more than 100 yards.

Defensive Backs

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    Overall Game Grade: C-

    Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron was able to complete deep passes of 34, 29 and 27 yards to three different players, and average 9.4 yards per completion.

    The Irish secondary was not able to force any turnovers, but did manage to hold McCarron to fewer passing yards than Everett Golson, despite the Crimson Tide also having a running game that found success early and often.

    Zeke Motta had a big hit to force a dropped pass early in the game and KeiVarae Russell got a hand on a receiver to save a touchdown.  However, the Crimson Tide still found the end zone eventually.

    The Irish secondary gave up four passing touchdowns, with the two first-half scores coming for three and 11 yards.  However, McCarron hit Amari Cooper twice in the second half for touchdowns of 34  and 19 yards.

    The secondary was beaten early as McCarron was able to drop passes in behind coverage and also beat defenders deep.  However, the Irish were able to hold him to just 108 yards passing in the second half, although the Crimson Tide were able to use their rushing attack to carry them the rest of the way.

Special Teams

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    Overall Game Grade: C

    The Irish started off the game by getting called for an interference penalty on a punt in which they did not give the returner enough room to make a fair catch.  However, the Irish were also able to pin the Crimson Tide within their own 20-yard line on a few occasions.

    Geno Atkinson managed to have returns of 15  and 14 yards, although Davonte’ Neal was a different story. 

    Neal fumbled one punt return, causing the Irish to begin a drive from their own 8-yard line, and had another return in which he decided against letting the ball go into the end zone, causing the Irish to start from their own 4-yard line.

Coaching

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    Overall Game Grade: D

    Head coach Brian Kelly and coordinators Chuck Martin and Bob Diaco just were not able to get anything going for the Irish.

    Offensively, the Irish did their best to establish a passing game, but it came at the expense of a rushing attack.  The ground game, the area that led the Irish offense all season, was basically nonexistent, making the task for quarterback Everett Golson even more difficult.

    The Irish, meanwhile, had the biggest problems of the night.  The Irish had few answers for Eddie Lacy and the other Crimson Tide running backs.  They also gave up big passes at crucial moments.  By halftime, the team was being shut out 28-0.

    Kelly’s squad had an outstanding regular season, but it seemed as if the initial game plan just did not work.  The Irish came out and were called for a few early penalties, but eventually settled down. 

    Meanwhile, trying to take advantage of the size matchup between tight end Tyler Eifert and defensive back Dee Milliner did not work out well for the Irish.  Trying to establish the passing game made sense, but a lack of a running game hurt greatly early on in the game.

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