Linebacker Nico Johnson paused, his four seasons of training in the method and manner of Nick Saban presenting an instant roadblock to the question at hand.
Johnson thought of 40-yard sprints, one after the other, that could await if his response got back to his head coach. Then, a smile.
“Me being one of the players that are leaving, not being under Coach Saban much longer, I can say it,” said Johnson, a senior. “I can say it’s a dynasty. To win three national championships in four years, that’s special.”
Discipline, first, is how Alabama made it to the top of the college football world yet again. And as the Crimson Tide has shown in each of its national championship seasons under Saban, it’s also that defense.
The Tide allowed Notre Dame’s Everett Golson to throw for 270 yards, their secondary once again hurt by a mobile, talented quarterback. But Golson wasn’t Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, and Notre Dame’s offense wasn’t up to the task of an upset. No. 2 Alabama allowed the top-ranked Irish just 32 yards on the ground in a 42-14 win in the BCS National Championship Game on Monday night at Sun Life Stadium.
The 2012 Alabama defense lost six players, including three first-round draft picks, from the 2011 unit and still made it back to the top. Alabama entered the night leading the nation in total yards allowed per game (246) and rushing yards (79.8) allowed and was second against the pass. Including Monday, it held opponents to 14 points or fewer in 11 of 14 games.
They carried on a shutout streak in BCS title games that began in the final quarter of the 37-21 victory over Texas in January 2010. Stretching through four quarters of last year’s 21-0 title-game win over LSU, it reached 108 minutes and 7 seconds. It ended when Golson plunged in from 2 yards out late in the third quarter.
By then, Alabama was ahead 35-0 and the touchdown was harmless. When Notre Dame first threatened to score – on its first drive of the third quarter – sophomore cornerback Ha Ha Clinton-Dix made a diving interception at the Crimson Tide 3-yard line.
Still, Notre Dame knew it had a better chance passing than running; Irish running back Theo Riddick had even claimed last week that Alabama’s secondary was vulnerable. Golson threw early and often and finished 21-of-36 with a touchdown, hitting mid-range targets with regularity.
At least one of Alabama’s front seven was frustrated by Notre Dame’s approach.
“It was getting a little disappointing,” said 6-foot-4, 320-pound senior nose guard Jesse Williams. “I couldn’t do anything. I was just chasing after them throwing the ball. I don’t blame them for not trying to run the ball, but that was their choice.”
The Irish had little recourse.
The smallest and lightest member of the 3-4 Alabama front, junior linebacker C.J. Mosley, stands 6-foot-2 and 232 pounds. He was the largest Monday, earning Defensive MVP honors after making eight tackles (five solo), including one tackle for loss.
Mosley ended last season on the turf in a heap, his hip dislocated after a collision in the title game against LSU. On Monday, he had both hands free to lift the Coaches’ Trophy.
“It’s a great feeling. I got to finish the game out and stand on the podium without crutches,” Mosley said.
His name was at the top of the stat sheet, and coupled with his return from an injury that looked career-threatening at the time, he was a fine choice. Truth is, you could have given it to a half-dozen other candidates.
“Everybody played like they wanted to be MVP,” senior defensive end Damion Square said.
A week after a pair of unimpressive losses, Georgia Tech regained a bit of its footing. The Yellow Jackets delivered an emphatic 87-57 thrashing of East Tennessee State on Saturday afternoon at McCamish Pavilion to head into their final exam week on an up note.