SPIRO: Alabama 42 – Notre Dame 14: Where was ‘the Gipper’?

Spiro Zavos Columnist

By Spiro Zavos, Spiro Zavos is a Roar Expert

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    Imagine what a difference $6 million a year would make in Alabama. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

    I’ve been staying out of Auckland and was uncertain whether the television arrangement of our hosts would allow me to watch the Alabama – Notre Dame BSC national championship contest.

    So on Wednesday afternoon (NZ time) I was fiddling around the television set and was delighted and surprised to find that EPSN were running a delayed telecast of the game.

    I came in slightly late in the game, which was about four minutes old, and I was startled and somewhat discouraged to notice that Alabama, the raging favourites to win, had already scored a touch-down.

    The next two times they had possession they scored again, with the second touch-down in this sequence being an 80 yard/8 play drive.

    The Alabama dominance was obvious, even to someone like myself who loves gridiron but has no pretensions to being an expert.

    The Alabama quarterback, A.J.McCarron, had all the time in the world to convert his passing plays as he sliced up the famed Notre Dame defence with the skill, efficiency and daring of a skilled surgeon.

    When A.J. (whose girlfriend was, typically, a Miss Alabama) decided to hand the ball off to his running back, Eddie Lacy, the brilliant runner carved up the defensive patterns, exposing tackling weaknesses in even the best of the Notre Dame defenders.

    I always watch gridiron with an eye on what can be transferred across to the rugby field. A persistent and successful move by Eddie Lacy is what the commentators called the ‘jump-cut.’

    This move involves the running back to make a sort of jump sidewise of a foot or so and then, virtually immediately, slant off in the same direction of the jump, with subsequent jump-cuts where necessary to get on the outside of defenders.

    It seems to me that this sort of move could and should be taught to tight forwards in rugby making their pick and drive charges. It could also be used, at a faster tempo undoubtedly, by outside centres and wingers trying to get around a bunched-up, tight defensive line.

    At half-time the scoreline was Alabama 28 – Notre Dame 0, with Alabama scoring a touch-down only a minute or so before half-time, with yet another long drive out of a defensive situation.

    One of the commentators suggested before the drive that Alabama might wind down the clock to half-time.

    This suggestion was a total misread of the quality and intensity of the Alabama side. The highest compliment I can pay them is to say that they played like those greatest of All Blacks sides, utterly ruthless in piling on the points and just as determined to keep their opposition to as few points as possible.

    At the half-time mark I wrote down on my pad, “Notre Dame needs the Gipper to inspire them to a legendary victory?” Well, he might have made a sort of visitation as Notre Dame actually drew the second half with Alabama 14 – 14.

    But there was no possibility of Notre Dame ‘winning one for the Gipper.’ Alabama scored first in the second half, and it was game over totally, even though in hindsight the 21 – 0 margin in the first quarter was enough to ensure the final outcome.

    Again, like those awesome All Blacks sides, Alabama actually won the game, rather than Notre Dame losing it.

    Alabama were too big, too fast and too smart for Notre Dame. They seemed to have all the time in the world to run off their own plays.

    When Notre Dame tried to run the ball, they found that their plays were anticipated and countered by an Alabama defence that had an answer to virtually everything Notre Dame threw at them.

    A couple of gridiron mantras came to my mind was I watched the annihilation of my favourite College gridiron side:

    1. ‘You can’t coach quickness.’

    2. And this from a Notre Dame coach some decades ago: ‘Prayers work best when players are big.’

    So out in New Zealand one member of the Zavos family was disappointed by the result.

    But it’s a big world.

    The father-in-law of Zolton Zavos, my son and the co-publisher of The Roar, is a fanatical Alabama supporter.

    Tonight he is celebrating a third national championship in four years by the Crimson Tide, only the third team to achieve this. But the emphatic way Alabama played suggests that another title is certainly on the cards for the 2013/2014 season.

    And coach Nick Saban, who has presided over these three title wins for Alabama, is clearly in line in the next few years to match the record the legendary Bear Bryant with his sixth national championship.

    What we had in this championship match was a team (Notre Dame) with a fabled history against a dynasty that may be the best in modern College gridiron. Real time is always more.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • January 9th 2013 @ 4:14am
      Al said | January 9th 2013 @ 4:14am | ! Report

      sorry Spiro but next year belongs to the Ducks!!!

      • January 9th 2013 @ 1:46pm
        Kevin said | January 9th 2013 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

        Concur !

    • January 9th 2013 @ 4:58am
      Schuey said | January 9th 2013 @ 4:58am | ! Report

      There was a 135kg guy who grew up in Qld n the game. Anyone know how he played??

      • January 9th 2013 @ 6:47am
        p.Tah said | January 9th 2013 @ 6:47am | ! Report

        Jesse Willams. Played well, interestingly in defence and offense but injured his leg in the final minutes of the game. The commentators said he is destined for the NFL.

        • January 9th 2013 @ 11:07am
          King Of Swing said | January 9th 2013 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          Saw a few Australian flags in the crowd as well. Was good to see.

        • January 9th 2013 @ 1:00pm
          Chop said | January 9th 2013 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

          He will go lower first round of the draft and should be very successful. I’ve read Indianapolis and Pittsburgh likely places, either one will be a great place for him to end up.

      • January 9th 2013 @ 12:32pm
        Al said | January 9th 2013 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

        Too soft/fat/unco-ordinated for league was he?

        • January 9th 2013 @ 12:59pm
          Chop said | January 9th 2013 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

          He’ll make most of an NRL salary cap in his first season, I’d say between that and a college degree he’s just smart enough to play NFL and not silly enough to play NRL.

          I actually support both codes but that is just a ridiculous comment….

        • January 9th 2013 @ 1:15pm
          Will Sinclair said | January 9th 2013 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

          Paul Kent? Is that you?

        • Roar Guru

          January 10th 2013 @ 1:05pm
          Bones506 said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

          What a ridiculous comment. Chop below has got it spot on.

          Williams will get a sign on bonus in the range of US$4 million before he even sets foot on the field.

    • Columnist

      January 9th 2013 @ 6:30am
      Spiro Zavos said | January 9th 2013 @ 6:30am | ! Report

      He played very well for Alabama, and the commentators specifically mentioned him as a ‘rugby player from Queensland.’

      • January 9th 2013 @ 11:21pm
        JCVD said | January 9th 2013 @ 11:21pm | ! Report

        I remember reading an article about him last year and apparently he is a massive Brisbane Broncos supporter

    • January 9th 2013 @ 7:47am
      Worlds biggest said | January 9th 2013 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      As an ND supporter that was a deflating defeat, it was men against boys as Bama were too big, physical and fast for the Irish. ND looked out of sorts particularly on defence as the tackling was abysmal. This coming from one of the best Defences in the country. What were the coaches doing in the 5 week lead up ? Just a disappointing way to finish a great regular season for ND. Lots to work on as the gap is still big. The Irish need to get a lot more physical on both sides of the ball if they want to compete with the best teams from the South. Keep building Irish.

    • January 9th 2013 @ 8:01am
      Worlds biggest said | January 9th 2013 @ 8:01am | ! Report

      Just on Jesse Williams, the guy is a freak who can bench press 600 pounds. Back to back championships for Williams. He is projected to be drafted late in the 1st rd or early 2nd rd of the NFL draft.

    • January 9th 2013 @ 10:01am
      josh said | January 9th 2013 @ 10:01am | ! Report

      THE BCS seems to be a bigger hodge podge than the old NRL finals system. THE BCS is no more than a glorified exhibition game in reality.

      • January 9th 2013 @ 10:39am
        Tom said | January 9th 2013 @ 10:39am | ! Report

        It is an absolute shemozzle. Notre Dame’s record should have clearly taken into account the absolutely mediocre opposition they faced, compared to the much tougher schedules schools like Oregon and Texas A & M faced. Either of them would have provided a much sterner test last night. I also have a problem with a system when many are making quite significant money out of the bowl games, whilst the players themselves play for free (USC style kickbacks notwithstanding). When you see guys like South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore blow out their knees, jeopardizing a potential NFL career, whilst getting paid nothing, it is a bit hard to take.

        On another note though, I hope to see Jesse Williams land at my Carolina Panthers, they could use a good DT, and Williams looks like a monster already. Also, was I the only one who found the commentator’s drooling over A.J.McCarron’s girlfriend particularly creepy?

        • January 9th 2013 @ 12:20pm
          Billy Bob said | January 9th 2013 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

          Yes Tom. The old boy got a little carried away and lost track of the decade and the century he was born in.
          More than a little creepy.

        • January 9th 2013 @ 2:48pm
          josh said | January 9th 2013 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

          I imagine (hope) that the “scholar”ships the kids are recruited on cover their living expenses? The NCAA rules seem pretty strict on student-athlete and payments. Do/Can they work at all outside of sport and university studies?

      • January 9th 2013 @ 10:56am
        Al said | January 9th 2013 @ 10:56am | ! Report

        Sorry josh but you don’t know what you are on about. Yes the system is complicated and subjective to decide bowl match ups and there are too many bowls but the BCS championship game is far from an exhibition game. As an American friend from ole miss explained to me today each game of the season for a title contender is like a playoff, one slip up and you are gone. Look at Oregon this year, hot favourites to play in the BCS championship game, but one slip up in overtime to Stanford and they were gone. Look at Parra in ’09, had their amazing run gone on for one more match would they have been as deserving champs as the Ducks would have been this year? Not on your life

        • January 9th 2013 @ 2:57pm
          josh said | January 9th 2013 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

          I think Tom adds to my point the delegates to the BCS are voted in by experts/opinionated sports journalists. I know they generally take the top ranking teams (often either 0 losses or 1 loss) But yesterday’s game was an atrocious spectacle. And as others have noted there may have been far more deserving teams. A true playoffs system would be better.

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