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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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Do the Caps have the goaltending to win the Stanley Cup?

Do the Caps have the goaltending to win the Stanley Cup?

The bye week and the all-star break are upon us meaning we will have to wait until Jan. 27 for the Capitals to take the ice again for a game. With the season over halfway done and the Feb. 24 trade deadline rapidly approaching, the focus of the season now shifts towards the playoffs.

Washington has certainly done enough at this point to show they are a playoff team, but just how good are they? Are they a true contender or are they destined for an early exit?

Over the next few days, I will examine the team to answer if it is good enough on offense, defense and in net to win a Cup and, if not, what they must do to improve by April.

See Monday's breakdown of the team's offense here.
See Tuesday's breakdown of the team's defense here.

Today’s question: Do the Caps have the defense to win the Stanley Cup?

Team stat
.916 team save percentage (20th in the NHL)

Player stats
Braden Holtby 18-9-4 (18 wins tied for 8th), .897 save percentage (48th among goalies with 15 or more games played), 3.09 GAA (40th)
Ilya Samsonov 15-2-1 (15 wins tied for 18th), .927 save percentage (5th among goalies with at least 15 GP), 2.06 GAA (1st)

It's been a tough year for Holtby. After a difficult start to the season, he seemed to reset and rebound in November. Then December rolled around and he struggled again. His save percentage has now dipped below .900 for the season. He still has gotten a majority of the starts and has put together a decent record on the season, but this does not look like vintage Holtby.

There is no one aspect of his game that you can point to and say, there it is, that's why he is struggling. The fact is that he is playing in front of a defense that has been shaky in terms of turnovers and he has not been able to bail them out with big saves like he has in years past. Deflections and screens seem to be affecting him more than they once did. Whether this is evidence of decline for the 30-year-old netminder of if this is just a bad year is a discussion for another day, but right now his play has not been up to par and he would be the first to admit that.

With Holtby in a contract year, Samsonov was likely brought up a year earlier than perhaps the team would have wanted him to be. The move, however, has paid off as Samsonov has been absolutely brilliant. There are flashes of inexperience to his game, particularly overcommitment when he slides from side to side, but already he has already improved from the start of the season to now and he seems to be every bit as good as advertised when Washington selected him in the first round back in 2015.

When it comes to the playoffs, however, Samsonov is an unknown commodity. We would like to assume his regular-season game will simply translate into great postseason play, but it does not always work that way. Just ask Jose Theodore. The fact is that he is a rookie goalie with zero NHL playoff experience. You also have to consider that the most games he has played in a professional season is 37 which he did last year in Hershey.

With Holtby struggling and Samsonov excelling, there are many who would love Samsonov to take over as the No. 1. But when you have a young goalie who has never in his professional career taken on a full-time starting role, is in his rookie season in the NHL and has no playoff experience, it is easy to see how this can all get very overwhelming very quickly.

There is no question that the play of both Holtby and Samsonov dictates that Samsonov should be playing more, but that probably will not translate into as many starts as you may think after the all-star break as Todd Reirden tries to manage the minutes of the rookie netminder. So long as the team remains atop the standings, there is no pressure to force more games than you need from Samsonov. Having said that, I doubt very much that Holtby will get every start in the upcoming four games the team has against the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins. I would be surprised if Samsonov did not get at least two of those games and one at home.

The verdict: Yes, the goaltending should be good enough to win the Cup

I know, you just read an entire analytical article with the ultimate conclusion of "I think so," but goaltending is the hardest thing to predict in hockey. Sometimes goalies get hot and sometimes they don't.

If the playoffs were to start today, Samsonov would have to be the starter. There is no debate. The problem is we have no idea what kind of a playoff goalie he will be. That's what makes Holtby's role so important.

Holtby ranks 5th all-time in playoff save percentage with a .928 and it's not a small sample size (89 games). OK, but won't his poor season translate to a poor performance in the playoffs? Ask 2018 Holtby who was in the exact same situation, supplanted by Philipp Gtubauer as the starter. He came on in relief of Grubauer in just the second game and never looked back with a .922 save percentage and 16-7 record all the way to the Stanley Cup.

Holtby is a goalie who likes to play as often as possible. The playoffs are ideal for him because you play every other night. It suits his game well. What happened in 2018 is no guarantee of success in 2020, but I don't know why anyone would think the Caps are better off getting a different back up than going with the guy who is statistically one of the best playoff goalies ever and who has won a Stanley Cup going into the postseason as a No. 2.

If Samsonov is anything close to what he has been in the regular season, the Caps are in good shape in net. If not, there is every reason to be confident in Holtby as the backup. Samsonov/Holtby as a tandem is about as good a tandem as there will be in the playoffs and there's no reason to change it.

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With Gerardo Parra's World Series tattoo, he'll carry 'Baby Shark' on forever

With Gerardo Parra's World Series tattoo, he'll carry 'Baby Shark' on forever

The Washington Nationals 2019 World Series title run is something Gerardo Parra will never forget.

Earlier this month, Parra covered his left forearm with a tattoo to commemorate the Nationals' championship, but the fan-favorite but his own little twist on it.

In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Washington, Parra explained the meaning behind the tattoo and the motives behind the design.

"Like I said before, if we won a World Series championship, I wanted to do special a tattoo [to have] for the rest of my life," Parra said. "It's special for me. I had like one month to figure out how the tattoo I wanted to do. We did the trophy, the baby shark inside the trophy, World Series champs."

You can listen to the full interview in the Nationals Talk podcast below.

The design of the tattoo took several weeks of thought, but the actual process of inking it to Parra's skin was quite the process as well.

"It took like 11 hours to do that," Parra said. "But I'm so happy and so glad that everybody likes it, mostly because I love it and I got it for the rest of my life."

Although he was in the nation's capital for less than one full season, Parra left his mark in Washington. Following a rough start in 2019, Parra instilled a light and fun atmosphere in the Nationals' clubhouse upon his arrival. He made 'Baby Shark' his walk-up song in honor of his two-year-old daughter, and it became the Nationals' unofficial rally cry throughout the 2019 season.

Although the season is several weeks in the history books, Parra still plays the song in his home sometimes. As to why? It's just the feeling he gets when it comes on.

"I'm in my home and sometimes I put on the song because my baby wants to listen," Parra said. "My neighbor, he wants to dance to it."

Shortly after the MLB season ended, Parra was offered a deal from the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. Knowing his chances of playing in the MLB next season were slim, the 32-year-old signed a few days later for $2.5 million with a $3 million option for 2021. He still hopes to return to Washington for the team's home opener where he would receive his World Series ring, and has self-nominated himself to throw out the first pitch.

So, will 'Baby Shark' follow Parra to his next destination? 

"The guys are waiting for baby shark in Japan. I'll do my best," Parra said. "I want to bring it to Japan. I want to bring it to different cultures, different countries, different cities. We'll see what happens, but I think everything is fine, everything is good energy, and try to make it work there, too."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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