The 2012-2013 Bowl Blitz Invitational presented by STAT BOX STORIES comes to a conclusion with the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship Game, which matches up the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1, 7-1 SEC) and the #1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-0). STAT BOX STORIES owner Brian Parker opted to play as the underdog Irish in their quest to dethrone the reigning champion Tide and bring the crystal football trophy to South Bend.
Fumble return for touchdown sparks Irish as #1 Notre Dame tops #2 Alabama, 23-14, to win National Championship
Miami, F.L. – When a title is on the line, it can be difficult to know whether or not the history and fortunes of a team will have any bearing on the sixty minutes of football that will decide who goes home with the title of college football’s best team. The remainder of the season provides a glimpse of what can be expected, but so often the raising of the stakes can result in new, often unexpected, results. With the Crimson Tide favored by nearly 10 points by most oddsmakers, the Fighting Irish’s 23-14 victory in the BCS National Championship Game can only be considered an upset, despite Notre Dame coming into the game ranked #1 in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
The game did not favor Notre Dame early, with Alabama receiving the ball first and cruising down the field for a 37-yard touchdown pass connection between QB #10 and WR #7 after only a minute of the game had been played. The Irish’s first offensive possession did not resemble Alabama in any fashion, chewing up the clock—and small chunks of yardage—on their way to the goal line. Unfortunately for Notre Dame—who was primed to go for a touchdown on 4th-and-Goal from the 1-yard-line—a false start penalty pushed them back to the Alabama 6 and forced a 23-yard field goal try, which was good. Around the same time the ball was going through the uprights, however, they learned they had lost starting HB #20 to a concussion less than one quarter into the game, forcing HB #6 into a lead role in the ground game.
The Tide’s next possession started to work its way up the field, but an ill-advised deep pass from QB #10 ended up in the hands of the Irish on a juggling interception, setting Notre Dame up with solid field position. The end result of that drive was a long 51-yard field goal by K #27 which just barely cleared the goalpost to get the Irish within a point of the defending champions.
Alabama’s next drive was confident despite the turnover, and they soon found themselves deep in Notre Dame territory with just over a minute remaining in the half, looking to extended their lead and try to put the Irish away. Unfortunately for the Tide, a wide receiver screen pass ended with WR #7 being dispossessed of the ball, and Notre Dame CB #10 scooped the loose ball into his arms and sprinted 76 yards for a touchdown to give the Irish their first lead of the game, 13-7.
With all of their timeouts remaining, Notre Dame bottled up the Alabama offense and forced a quick three-and-out. The Irish managed to find some soft spots in the Crimson Tide secondary to fight their way down the field, but they were forced to settle for a 29-yard field goal with a second remaining in the half to push the lead to two possessions at 16-7, with possession coming their way to open up the second half.
Despite having the ball and a chance to extend the lead, however, Notre Dame came up empty with a three-and-out to begin the third quarter. Even after Alabama was forced to punt the ball away without scoring any points, Notre Dame QB #5 threw an interception and Alabama’s offense was back in business. The Crimson Tide got all the way down to Notre Dame’s 1-yard-line on a pass from QB #10 to WR #83, and on 3rd-and-Goal Bama found themselves in the end zone once more on a 1-yard touchdown run by HB #42. With 1:20 left in third quarter, the Notre Dame lead had been cut to a safety.
Notre Dame’s ensuing possession saw them converting key third downs and fighting their way deep into Alabama territory. On 3rd-and-7—facing the distinct possibility of having to settle for a field goal and a 5-point lead—Notre Dame QB #5 found TE #18 on a crossing route, and the pass resulted in a 12-yard touchdown for the Irish to extend their lead to two possessions at 23-14.
With over five minutes left to play, however, the game was far from over. Alabama’s offense once again crossed midfield and was looking to take advantage of a tired Notre Dame defense. An ill-advised scramble by QB #10 for the Tide left him—and the Bama fanbase—gasping for breath, as a rib injury knocked the starting signal-caller out for the rest of the game. Alabama QB #12 came in as relief and got a first down on his first play, but Bama soon faced a fourth down in scoring territory and were unable to come away with the conversion, turning the ball over on downs.
Notre Dame’s next drive was unable to put the game away, giving Alabama one last best shot to try and claw their way back into the title fight. The Tide once again crossed midfield, but a sack on third down left them facing 4th-and-22. The pass from QB #10 to WR #83 was short of the first down marker, but he broke a tackle and had the conversion in sight. A Notre Dame defensive back made a potential championship-saving wrap tackle, however, bringing Bama WR #83 down one yard shy and turning the ball over to the Irish on downs.
Alabama tried to get their hands back on the ball using their timeouts, but Notre Dame QB #5 completed a pass to WR #81 on 3rd-and-12 to convert the final first down the Irish would need before celebrating under confetti and hoisting up the BCS National Championship trophy.
Player of the Game: Notre Dame CB #10, who recorded 5 tackles but most importantly scooped up a fumble with Alabama driving and just over a minute left in the first half. He managed to bring that fumble back 76 yards for a touchdown to give the Irish their first lead of the game and provide the key spark that the underdogs needed.
It was over when… Alabama came up a yard short on 4th-and-22, getting stopped at the Notre Dame 16 with just over two minutes left in the game. The Tide tried to force the ball back, using all three of their timeouts, but Notre Dame QB #5 found WR #81 on 3rd-and-12 to get an Irish first down and end the game.
Game Ball goes to… Alabama QB #10, who threw for 271 yards and a touchdown, with a potential second passing touchdown stopped at the Notre Dame 1-yard-line to set up the third quarter rushing score by HB #42.
Stat of the Game: 2-for-5. Alabama went for it on fourth down five times, coming away successful only twice. If the Crimson Tide had kicked field goals on three of their attempts within range instead, the game would have had a drastically different complexion.
Statistical Tidbits: Both teams had 15 first downs, though Alabama out-gained Notre Dame by 88 yards on offense. Notre Dame held the edge in rushing yards, 96-to-52 while Alabama had a clear advantage through the air, 298-to-166. … Alabama was a woeful 3-for-12 on third down, while Notre Dame converted 6-of-10 attempts. The Tide also put together a disappointing 2-for-5 fourth down conversion total, keeping vital points off the board in their quest for the end zone. … Notre Dame scored a touchdown and two field goals on their three red zone attempts, good for 100% conversion. Alabama had two red zone attempts and came away with a single touchdown. … Each team turned the ball over twice; the Tide via a lost fumble and an interception, while Notre Dame threw two interceptions. … Notre Dame held the edge in possession by nearly two minutes. … Alabama WR #83 managed 100 yards receiving, while his teammate WR #7 caught 6 passes for 99 yards. Only WR #7 scored between the two. … Notre Dame HB #6 rushed 21 times in relief of injured HB #20, gaining 77 yards on the ground despite not finding the end zone.
The games may now be done, but the 2012-2013 Bowl Blitz Invitational is not over yet; come back soon for complete statistical breakdowns of all 35 Bowl Games that have been played for this year’s project!