Nationals

Fast start helps Tide beat Irish for title, 42-14

201301072115765114755-p2.jpeg

Fast start helps Tide beat Irish for title, 42-14

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) The Tide sure did roll.

Alabama proved unstoppable from the outset of the BCS championship game Monday night. The Crimson Tide mounted touchdown drives of 82, 61 and 80 yards on its first three possessions and went on to beat Notre Dame 42-14.

The lightning-quick start gave the Tide a 21-0 lead one play into the second quarter, and Alabama built it by blowing the Fighting Irish off the ball.

``We knew we wanted to run the ball and hit them early, and I think that's what we did,'' center Barrett Jones said. ``We couldn't be happier with the way we came out and started the game.''

Alabama dominated with an offensive line that includes three All-Americas - first-teamers Jones and left guard Chance Warmack, and second-teamer D.J. Fluker at right tackle. They created gaping holes against a team ranked fourth in the nation in run defense, and neutralized Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o, who became a non-factor.

``I love this group of guys'' said Jones, a senior. ``They're by far the best O-line I've ever played on - very physical and very assignment-oriented.''

Notre Dame entered the game with 34 sacks, but A.J. McCarron was given plenty of time to throw. He hit eight of his first nine passes, including a 3-yard toss to Michael Williams for the second touchdown.

``The running game was a big key,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ``When you run the ball, it opens up the offense and gives you more options.''

The early clock-eating drives took Notre Dame's offense out of the game. The Irish gained only 23 yards before Alabama had 21 points. Time of possession at that juncture was 12:12 for the Crimson Tide to 2:52 for the Fighting Irish.

The matchup of Alabama's ground attack - with 1,000-yard rushers Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon - against Notre Dame's stout defense was expected to be pivotal. It was, and like the game, it quickly became no contest.

Alabama had 74 yards rushing before Notre Dame attempted a running play.

``The O-line came out and got great push,'' Lacy said.

Notre Dame's defense wasn't accustomed to being pushed around in such a manner, and the Tide was surprised to be so dominant.

``I never saw that coming,'' tackle Cyrus Kouandjio said, ``but it happened.''

Saban agreed.

``Notre Dame had a really highly rated statistical defensive team,'' he said. ``I thought a real challenge for us in the game was how we would control the line of scrimmage. That's probably the thing that was most surprising to me - how we were able to control the line of scrimmage, especially early in the game.''

The first scoring drive - which took only five plays - was the longest the Irish had allowed all season.

``Alabama was the better team,'' Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ``They ran the football well. Our strength all year has been playing physical and tackling, and we did not tackle well together.''

McCarron threw downfield on the second play to Kevin Norwood for 29 yards. Three plays later, Lacy found lots of room up the middle and ran through the grasp of a cornerback en route to a 20-yard touchdown.

Most of the time in the early going, the Tide ran to the left and away from Te'o. Part of the game plan?

``It just happened,'' Kouandjio said.

``The coaching staff did an excellent job game-plan-wise breaking down Notre Dame's defense,'' McCarron said. ``They really had a great game plan for us coming in tonight, and my teammates did a great job of executing.''

Alabama's linemen repeatedly locked up Te'o. When Lacy ran up the middle for another 20-yard gain on third-and-1 to the Notre Dame 3, Te'o was blocked out of play by Warmack and ended up chasing the play from behind.

Jones helped knock Te'o aside when Yeldon ran over right guard for a 1-yard score to make it 21-0. That was the second rushing touchdown allowed by the Irish, matching what they gave up during the entire regular season.

Notre Dame had allowed only two players to rush for 100 yards, but Lacy finished with 140 and Yeldon added 108.

Leading up to the game, Jones missed considerable practice time with a foot sprain, and he said his teammates up front took up the slack for him.

``They had to help me out a lot tonight, because I wasn't really 100 percent,'' Jones said. ``I had to get help on plays I don't usually get a lot of help on. They helped me get through this game. It was painful, but you couldn't have pulled me off the field with a tractor.''

Quick Links

Nationals Scene and Heard: Team has a staff member opt-out

Nationals Scene and Heard: Team has a staff member opt-out

WASHINGTON -- Tuesday night was a quieter one in Nationals Park. Multiple members of the bullpen pitched against the same hitters over and over in what was less an intrasquad game and more drill work.

Will Harris, Daniel Hudson, Javy Guerra, Aaron Barrett, Kevin Quackenbush and Ryne Harper pitched. Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Starlin Castro, Carter Kieboom and Eric Thames hit the most.

Let’s get started with what was going on at the park:

-- Davey Martinez announced Tuesday night that batting practice pitcher Ali Modami has opted out of the 2020 season. Modami throws BP as a left-handed pitcher, but he’s also one of the fixtures at the park since joining the team in 2011.

His initial work was often with Bryce Harper in the batting cages before games. Modami always pitched to Harper, who did not take BP on the field. Overall, Modami threw a massive amount of pitches on a daily basis to whomever was ready to swing.

Modami added good-luck charm to his duties in 2019 when he was tasked with carrying the lineup card to home plate Friday, May 24, when the Nationals were 19-31 and staggered home from New York. They won -- in sloppy fashion -- that night. Modami went out the next day, and every day from then on.

You might also remember him as Brian Dozier’s celebratory transportation in the dugout. He’s another part of a would-be normal situation who will not be around in 2020.

RELATED: WILL HARRIS DONS 'DISTRICT OF CHAMPIONS' T-SHIRT

-- A staffer who is back is hitting coach Kevin Long. Tuesday night was his first in Nationals Park since intake testing which forced him into quarantine.

“I know he had a mask on, but he was smiling ear to ear,” Martinez said. “He was dying to come back, and he’s back now. That’s one guy we got back. Hopefully, we get the rest of the guys back soon.”

-- Wednesday marks two weeks since intake testing began. The Nationals performed rolling testing the first week of “Summer Camp” and eight players have not been seen since. Among them are Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Howie Kendrick.

Martinez said recently the team is following District-mandated protocols -- which are more stringent than the ones put in place by MLB’s operations manual -- when deciding who will come back.

If any of the players went into quarantine July 1 or 2, they are nearing the end of their 14-day stay in such isolation. So, are they close to joining the team just three days before the exhibition game and eight before the start of the season?

“Honestly, I don’t know that answer,” Martinez said. “Every morning I wake up, all I can do is ask my medical staff, ‘Are they coming’ and they give me a no. Hopefully, one of these days when I wake up and ask if they are coming, they give me a yes. That’s all I can say about it. I do know we can’t wait to get all these guys back and be in full force. Hopefully it will be soon.”

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

-- Harris worked a clean inning Tuesday. His recovery from a spring-time abdominal strain is complete and he often worked from a mound in Baton Rouge while everyone waited for the season to begin. Tuesday was the first time he’s faced hitters since the 2019 World Series.

“I’ve thrown a lot of bullpens,” Harris said. “The reps are there, as far as just pitching and my arm. It’s just now getting the feedback from hitters and basically the validation of, OK, my stuff is doing what I think it’s supposed to be doing and I’m getting the swings I’m accustomed to getting. I got to have a bigger sample size, but with all the technology today you can pretty much know where you’re at pretty quickly. So, me throwing [Tuesday], I’ll take a look at it [Wednesday] when I get here, make sure my stuff’s doing what I’m accustomed to it doing, if it’s not, figure it out before my next outing.”

-- A quick Harris quip about the idea he might be used frequently at the start of the season. “If you don’t want to throw 18 times in a month, give up some runs and you won’t throw 18 times in a month.”

-- The Nationals worked on preparation for the new extra-innings rule this season which will place a runner on second base to start the 10th inning. They immediately tried a “daylight” pickoff play -- when the shortstop cuts in behind a runner leading off second, the catcher signals there is space, or “daylight” between the fielder and runner, and the pitcher pivots for a pickoff attempt. Tuesday was the first time they started to fold this into their daily routine.

-- Martinez said to-go meals are prepared at the end of workouts so players and staff can leave with food and go straight home.

“We’re making it a point for these guys, when you leave here, you’re pretty much going to a hotel or you’re going to your place that you have and you’re staying in,” Martinez said. “If we’re really going to do this and keep everybody safe, I tell these guys all the time, you can’t be messing around. You’ve got to really take it seriously. One, I don’t want to get sick. Two, I don’t want anybody else around here getting sick. You’ve got to be smart about everything we do.”

Stay connected to the Nationals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

In The Loop: How Filip Forsberg is staying busy, Daniel Jones' new backup

In The Loop: How Filip Forsberg is staying busy, Daniel Jones' new backup

First up in our look around the sports world, former Washington Capital and Predators star Filip Forsberg recently shared how hes been staying busy during this down time. He says in this video posted on Instagram that since hockey’s coming back, he has to wear his gear to get used to it again - very clever! Can't wait for the season to restart. 

Next up, we all remember Rams' defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s insane knife workout and, well, he inspired 49ers rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw to do his own version. I'm not sure about you, but all of a sudden my anxiety is through the roof!

Lastly, we all knew that Giants running back Saquon Barkley has ridiculous legs on him, but nobody ever talks about his arms. QB Daniel Jones may have a solid backup here!