Alabama defense grounds Notre Dame’s rushing attack

Notre Dame came into the BCS National Championship Game averaging 202 rushing yards a game — ranking a more than respectable 29th of 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Obviously, that was before the Fighting Irish met the No. 1 rushing defense of Alabama.

As it was, Alabama came into the game allowing only 79.7 yards per game.

Notre Dame’s total rushing yardage Monday in Alabama’s 42-14 win: 32 yards.

“We know that we are the most physical team in the country,’’ said Alabama defensive end Damion Square. “We knew one team would break and it wasn’t going to be us. We wanted to take the air out of their offense.’’

Irish running back Theo Riddick (37 yards on 10 carries) sat at his locker, sobbing. He tried to talk, but could barely get words out.

“I can’t even think right now,’’ he said.

Then he sobbed again.

“Just heartbreaking,’’ he whispered.

After one quarter — actually, even sooner — it became evident the only way the Irish might run on the Crimson Tide would be if they played atop thoroughbreds.

But alas, this game was played at Sun Life Stadium — not Gulfstream Park.

The two-headed Irish running-back attack of Riddick and Cierre Wood on Monday was squashed by the Tide like a pesky palmetto bug.

The Irish ran twice for 7 yards in the first quarter.

At the end of the first half, Riddick and Wood had combined for six carries for 29 yards. Quarterback Everett Golson’s three keepers for a couple yards gave Notre Dame a meager 31 yards on nine carries.

After three quarters, the Irish had run 14 times for 37 yards, with Riddick’s meager 32 yards leading the way. That’s 2.6 yards per carry.


“We messed up,’’ said Wood, who finished with two yards on four carries. “We tried, but we just started slow. We didn’t get off to a good start — missed reads.”

George Atkinson, the sophomore tailback who added 361 yards and five touchdowns this season as the third runner, didn’t even get in the game.

Finally, with almost five minutes left in the third quarter, Golson — his arm stretched to the limit — plunged 2 yards for a touchdown, capping a nine-play, 85-yard drive and at least preventing a shutout.

The TD ended Alabama’s scoring streak of 69 unanswered points in BCS National Championship games. But it couldn’t have been much consolation.

Notre Dame’s next touchdown was a 6-yard pass from Golson to Riddick to make it 42-14 with 7:51 left in the game.

And with about six minutes remaining, Notre Dame had a combined 15 carries for 38 yards and the one rushing score.

The Irish ground game had barely left the ground.

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