MIAMI — On the bus ride to Sun Life Stadium for Monday night’s BCS National Championship Game, Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker went to running back Eddie Lacy and told him what he needed to do.
“I actually challenged him on the bus to get two or three touchdowns,” Fluker said. “He said, ‘All right, OK.’ ”
A man of few words, that Lacy.
Few words, but many yards.
Lacy churned for 140 rushing yards and scored Alabama’s first and last touchdowns of the first half — one rushing, one receiving — in the Crimson Tide’s 42-14 rout of Notre Dame.
The performance earned the former Dutchtown High School tailback honors as the game’s most outstanding offensive player, beating out Bama quarterback AJ McCarron, who threw for four TDs.
Despite McCarron’s showy stats, it was Lacy with his physical pounding of Notre Dame’s vaunted defense and his patented spin moves that left the Irish grasping at air and set the tone for Bama’s beatdown.
“He was on a mission tonight,” Fluker said. “We blocked for him, and he went out and got it. His performance will go down as one of the best in the history of Alabama.”
Lacy started modestly, bottled up for a 1-yard carry on Alabama’s first play from scrimmage.
Perhaps what happened on his second carry got Lacy’s Irish up. As he powered through the Notre Dame defense for a 10-yard gain, linebacker Dan Fox whipped him to the ground and sent Lacy’s crimson helmet flying.
The tackle drew a 15-yard face mask penalty, putting the ball at the Notre Dame 27. Lacy said nothing, his mouth guard still firmly clinched between his teeth.
Two plays later, Lacy was in the end zone, slicing 20 yards through a gaping hope in Notre Dame’s vaunted defense.
“He came out physical, came out running the rock hard,” ESPN analyst David Pollack said. “I don’t think Notre Dame knew what to do after this point.”
Ohio State and former Florida coach Urban Meyer, also on the ESPN set, said he saw a definite lack of desire on the Irish’s part to take on Lacy as the game continued.
“Every time you see him running the ball, you see arms trying to wrap him up instead of trying to get a good piece of him,” Meyer said.
Lacy also hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass on a middle screen from McCarron 31 seconds before halftime that seemed to secure victory for Alabama up 28-0.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly knew Lacy was a prime reason for his team’s demise.
“I’d have to put most of it on an outstanding back in Lacy,” Kelly said. “His ability to shake us down was outstanding.”
For his part, Lacy said he was surprised with the success he had running the ball against a Notre Dame team allowing just 92.4 rushing yards per game. Bama netted 265.
“Our offensive line got a great push and opened great holes,” Lacy said, “and I was able to have success running the ball.”
Lacy said he felt the game was likely Alabama’s most complete effort of the entire season. Considering he is widely expected to declare he is entering April’s NFL draft — the deadline is next Tuesday — he may have saved his best for last.