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Bama bashes Notre Dame 42-14 in BCS title game

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Bama bashes Notre Dame 42-14 in BCS title game

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) The coach no longer wears houndstooth. The result is the same. Another Alabama dynasty.

Quieting the Irish by the first play of the second quarter, Eddie Lacy, AJ McCarron and the No. 2 Crimson Tide rolled top-ranked Notre Dame 42-14 for the BCS championship Monday night, locking up a second straight national title and third in four years with another laugher of a title game.

The Bear would've been especially proud of this one - Nick Saban and the Tide romping to the second-biggest rout of the BCS era that began in 1999.

``We're going for it next year again,'' said Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandijo, only a sophomore but already the owner of two rings. ``And again. And again. And again. I love to win. That's why I came here.''

Lacy, the game's offensive MVP, ran for one touchdown and caught a pass for another in the final minute of the opening half. He spun away from the vaunted Notre Dame defense not once, but twice, to cap a 28-0 blitz before the bands even got on the field.

``They just did what Alabama does,'' moaned Manti Te'o, Notre Dame's star linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist.

Lacy finished with 140 yards on 20 carries, coming up with two of his best performances in the two biggest games of the year. He rushed for a career-high 181 yards in a thrilling victory over Georgia in the SEC title game, and was nearly as dominant against the Irish. McCarron wasn't too shabby, either, completing 20 of 28 passes for four touchdowns and 264 yards, adding another dazzling effort on top of his MVP in last year's title game.

You could almost hear television sets around the country flipping to other channels, a hugely anticipated matchup between two of the nation's most storied programs reduced to nothing more than the second straight BCS blowout for the Crimson Tide.

``We've had a lot of really great football players who've worked really hard,'' Saban said. ``Because we've had a great team, we've been able to have a significant amount of success.''

Alabama (13-1) scored 69 straight points against its title game opponents, going back to getting the final 13 against Texas in 2010, followed by a stifling 21-0 victory over LSU for last year's crown, then scoring the first 35 points on Notre Dame. Saban's team made the Irish (12-1) look like a squad that would be hard-pressed to finish in the middle of the pack in the mighty Southeastern Conference, which has now won seven straight national championships.

The Crimson Tide will likely wrap up its ninth Associated Press national title, breaking a tie with Notre Dame for the most by any school and gaining a measure of redemption for a bitter loss to the Irish almost four decades ago: the epic Sugar Bowl in which Ara Parseghian's team edged Bear Bryant's powerhouse 24-23.

Bryant won five AP titles during his brilliant career. The way things are going, Saban might just chase him down.

The diminutive man with the perpetual scowl has guided Alabama to the top spot in the rankings three times since arriving in Tuscaloosa in 2007, and if he's serious about finishing his career with the job he has, there seems no reason he can't win a few more before he's done with ``The Process.''

Already, Saban is the first coach in the BCS era to win national titles at different schools, capturing his first at LSU during the 2003 season. Now, he's the first coach with back-to-back BCS titles, and given the youthfulness of his team, Alabama figures to go into next season as a heavy favorite.

In an interesting twist, Saban's fourth college title came in the stadium where he had the only stumble of his coaching career, a two-year tenure with the NFL's Miami Dolphins that ended ugly, with the coach insisting he wasn't planning to leave - then bolting for Alabama just two weeks later. His tactics may have been underhanded, but it's hard to argue with the call he made.

Before a record Sun Life Stadium crowd of 80,120 that definitely included more green than crimson, Lacy ran right through Te'o and the Irish on a 20-yard touchdown run before the game was 3 minutes old, capping an 82-yard drive that was longest of the season given up by the Fighting Irish.

It would only get worse. Alabama marched right down the field on its second possession, this one a 10-play, 61-yard pounding that finished with McCarron completely faking out the defense and lofting a 3-yard touchdown pass to Michael Williams, standing all alone in the back of the end zone.

On the first play of the second quarter, T.J. Yeldon powered over from the 1 to make it 21-0, the finish to another impressive drive - this one covering 80 yards - that included two long completions by McCarron. First, he went to Kevin Norwood on a 25-yard gain. Then, he hooked up with freshman Amari Cooper for a 27-yard gain to the Notre Dame 6.

By that point, it was clear to everyone that Notre Dame's hopes of winning its first national championship since 1988 were all done. But Alabama just poured it on.

``We've got to get physically stronger, continue close the gap there,'' said Brian Kelly, the Irish's third-year coach. ``Just overall, we need to see what it looks like. Our guys clearly know what it looks like now - a championship football team. That's back-to-back national champions. That's what it looks like. That's what you measure yourself against there. It's pretty clear across the board what we have to do.''

Lacy's 11-yard touchdown reception with 31 seconds left in the half left the Irish fans shaking the heads in disbelief, while the Alabama faithful broke out that familiar ``SEC! SEC! SEC!''

Alabama made it 35-0 on McCarron's second TD pass of the night, a 34-yarder to Cooper without a Notre Dame defender in sight.

The Irish finally scored late in the third quarter, a 2-yard run by Everett Golson that served no other purpose except to end Alabama's remarkable scoreless streak in the BCS title games, which stretched to 108 minute and 7 seconds - the equivalent of nearly two full games - before the Notre Dame quarterback fought his way into the end zone.

The only BCS title game that was more of a blowout was USC's 55-19 victory over Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl, a title that was later vacated because of NCAA violations.

About the only time Alabama stumbled was when McCarron had a miscommunication with his All-American center, Barrett Jones, in the closing seconds. The fiery McCarron shouted at Jones, who just shoved him away. But as the seconds ticked off, they were right on the same page, hugging Saban and celebrating another title.

Notre Dame went from unranked in the preseason to the top spot in the rankings by the end of the regular season. But that long-awaited championship will have to wait at least one more years. Golson completed his first season as the starter by going 21 of 36 for 270 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. But he got no help from the running game, which was held to 32 yards - 170 below their season average.

Kelly had vowed this was only beginning, insisting the bar has been raised in South Bend no matter what the outcome.

``We made incredible strides to get to this point,'' he said. ``Now it's pretty clear what we've got to do to get over the top.''

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: Bradley Beal

Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: Bradley Beal

Now that the dust has settled for the 2018-19 Wizards season, it's time to review the roster and hand out individual grades...

Who: Bradley Beal, shooting guard

2018-19 stats: 36.9 mpg, 25.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 5.0 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 2.7 tov, 47.5 FG%, 35.1 3P% (2.5/7.3), 54.0 eFG%, 80.8 FT% (4.4/5.5), 113 ortg, 114 drtg

Best game: 1/13 vs. Raptors - 43 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, 6-12 3PT

Grade: A+

Season review: One could argue that nobody deserves a higher grade in the Wizards organization for their 2018-19 season than Bradley Beal, who had by far the best individual year of any player on the team. He had high expectations coming into the season and exceeded them, taking the next step from an All-Star to a legitimate All-NBA candidate.

Beal also continued to represent the organization well in public. He spoke for the team after many difficult losses with poise and maturity. And he brought positive attention to the franchise for his charitable efforts, recently being named as a finalist for the league's community assist award.

Beal's on-court performance was a shining light amid a disastrous season overall for the team. He set career-highs in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and free throw attempts. He played in all 82 games for the second straight season and never complained despite leading the NBA in minutes.

The most impressive part of Beal's season may be how he responded when John Wall went down due to injury. Wall last played on Dec. 26 and in the next 47 games, Beal averaged 27.2 points, 6.0 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals. 

Beal's final numbers put him in elite company. He became the first 25-5-5 player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history. He was one of only six players to reach that mark this season, a list that includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.

Even as the season was winding down and the Wizards were well out of playoff contention, Beal gave an honest and consistent effort. That stood out in a year in which some of his teammates did not play hard and were called out by head coach Scott Brooks and team leaders for doing so. 

Now Beal, of course, had many reasons to keep giving 100 percent. With the numbers he has put up, he could make All-NBA in late May and, if he does, will qualify for a supermax contract. That could mean tens of millions more on his next deal, if he chooses to sign back with the Wizards.

As Beal looks ahead to this summer and next season, another question is how much better he can become. He took a significant step from the All-Star year he had in 2017-18. What if he makes another, similar leap?

Beal upped his scoring average by three points year-over-year. Another jump like that could put him in the MVP conversation, depending on how the Wizards finish in the standings.

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Trevor Rosenthal’s fate among key questions as Nationals stumble home

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Trevor Rosenthal’s fate among key questions as Nationals stumble home

Rolling back into town, things same as they ever were, the Nationals can take solace in their situation by looking across the division. Brutish, really, a bunch of teams labeled contenders which can’t assemble winning streaks or bullpen outs. The National League East is an ugly affair filled with teams barely playing winning baseball. Not one of the five has a record better than .500 across the last 10 games.

Which is good news for the Nationals. They left the District with hopes consecutive series against supposedly inferior teams would jumpstart this pothole-filled season. No such results. Losers of four of six against downtrodden Miami and suddenly vibing Colorado leaves Washington a game under .500 -- its home of a year-plus. The Nationals have been within one game of .500, either a game above or below, 95 times since the 2018 season began with a 4-0 sweep in Cincinnati. That’s the most in the majors by 22 games.

So, a week away did nothing to change the team’s record or problems. Trevor Rosenthal still can’t find the plate. Trea Turner still has not healed. The bullpen as a whole is still languishing. Anthony Rendon’s elbow bruise was enough to keep him out of the Colorado series but not on the 10-day injured list.

Rosenthal remains a conundrum. Another wild appearance in Colorado undermined the progress of his previous appearance. He hits batters, bats and backstops, none of which are the goal.

Washington has few options with him. Rosenthal is earning $7 million guaranteed this season. He has minor-league options, but his major-league service time means he would have to accept an assignment to the lower levels. The Nationals can’t just send him down. He also just spent a year-plus recovering from surgery in order to pitch in the major leagues. Try telling that person it’s time for the minor leagues. He currently can’t be trusted in any spot. But, he needs to pitch to fix his issues.

An argument to Rosenthal to accept a minor-league assignment could go like this: go down there, get right, come back to help us when that happens. Don’t think only about now. Think about the future, too. A $14-million club option is on the line for next season. The chance Washington takes that option is close to nil. So, Rosenthal needs to think about employment elsewhere. What’s happening now -- pitching sparingly with stomach-churning results -- is not working, and it’s not working for anyone.

Another looming question as spunky San Diego arrives for a three-game series, is Rendon’s status. He has not played since being hit by a pitch April 20 in Miami. He also is yet to make his way to the injured list. Which, presumably, means the Nationals expect Rendon to be available Friday night against the Padres. If not, he should have been placed on the injured list already, retroactive to Sunday.

Without Rendon, the Nationals received a sustained look at Victor Robles hitting second. The results were intriguing. Robles remains a dynamic athlete who is still learning to hit. Davey Martinez will have to decide whether he is a fit to hit second without Turner and with Rendon in the lineup. Putting Robles second would have a two-fold benefit: It moves Rendon to hitting third, which moves Juan Soto to fourth, giving further separation to the left-handed bats in the lineup (part of the original thought for hitting Turner second). It also simply provides Robles more at-bats.

However Martinez -- and the organization -- decide to act will not be made easier by the coming schedule. San Diego’s negative run differential suggests its 14-11 record is built on false underpinnings. However, it remains a competitive team. St. Louis -- the NL’s best team as of Thursday -- is next. Another drive to Philadelphia follows, then a trip to Milwaukee and four games in Los Angeles against the first-place Dodgers.

Washington has to figure out if Rosenthal will be making any of those journeys, where Robles will be hitting, and, most notably, how they can put together consecutive wins. Its longest winning streak is two games. Its longest losing streak is two games. The Nationals have never been more than one game over .500 or two games below this season. This is peak middling, and not what a $190 million payroll was dispatched to do.

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