Notre Dame defense falls well short

Manti Te’o stood perfectly still as he took a long look at one of the giant video screens in Sun Life Stadium, studying the replay of an Alabama touchdown.

It was a pose that Notre Dame repeated way, way too often in the BCS National Championship Game.

Te’o — the senior linebacker widely considered the nation’s top defensive player — was a non-factor early in Monday’s title game, and that foreshadowed how the rest of the night went for the Fighting Irish. Overmatched from the opening possession, Notre Dame allowed season highs in points and yardage, simply unable to stop the Crimson Tide.

And yes, it was as one-sided as the 42-14 final score appeared. It even had Irish coach Brian Kelly cracking a joke at his own expense in a televised halftime interview.

“All Alabama,” Kelly said at the time. “I mean, we can’t tackle them right now. And who knows why? They’re big and physical — I guess I do know why.”

Anyone who was watching knew why.

“Obviously we wish the night could have ended in a different way,” Te’o said. “But the season, the year, my career here, I’ve been truly blessed to be at Notre Dame, and I’ll forever be proud to say that I’m a Notre Dame Fighting Irish, regardless of what happened tonight.”

The lowlights were stacked high by the time this game was over. Te’o missed a couple of tackles early, something he hardly did this season. By halftime, when it was 28-0, the Irish had already given up more points than they had in any game this season, the previous high being 26 in a triple-overtime win over Pittsburgh.

The most yards Notre Dame had given up this season was 379; Alabama cracked the 500-yard mark early in the fourth quarter.

“We just needed to execute better,” safety Zeke Motta said. “It was just a matter of execution and playing the right way.”

Maybe the play that will be most replayed of all was the one where Eddie Lacy essentially tackled Danny Spond.

The significance? Well, Lacy was the Alabama ballcarrier at the time, holding the football with one arm and sending Spond — one of Notre Dame’s top linebackers — sprawling with the other as he rumbled past for an extra yard or two.

“Pretty darn good football team, but not good enough,” Kelly said of his squad. “So it’s clear what we need to do in the offseason.”

“It’s a tough way to go out,” tight end Tyler Eifert said. “We laid it all on the line, but at the end of the day, Bama was the better team.”