Monday’s BCS Championship Game featured many players coming up big for the Alabama Crimson Tide in their national championship victory. Among them are the Crimson Tide offensive line that made things that much easier for quaterback A.J. McCarron and especially for running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. However, Yeldon and Lacy both also benefited from something that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defense in a way gave them; missed tackles leading to larger gains on running plays.
Lacy won offensive player of the game with 140 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) while Yeldon also contributed greatly with 108 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown run of his own. Both of these men seemed destined to have these kinds of games with the help of their powerful and talented line, but they also got plenty of assistance from the Fighting Irish’s inability to bring each running back down time and time again during the game.
Each running back even has a particular play in the title game that not only spells out the talent difference between the teams, but also demonstrates how rampant this missed tackling from the Fighting Irish was. For Yeldon, it was a run on a 3rd & 3 during the Crimson Tide’s final drive of the first half. Yeldon took a hand-off, was dead to rights in the backfield with Manti Te’o approaching. Yeldon shoved Te’o off and ran for the first down, getting into Fighting Irish territory in the process. Lacy’s play was the climax to that drive when he took a short pass from McCarron and glided into the end-zone for a touchdown, using two spins to fake out Fighting Irish defenders around the end-zone and get in for the score.
The Crimson Tide ended up with 265 yards rushing as a team. Of those, they had a season-high 125 yards after contact. When a team rushes for that much in a game and nearly half of it comes after contact, you know there’s a whole lot of missed tackling going on to make it possible. And in this case there was. The Fighting Irish defense may have been ready to play, but they apparently weren’t ready for the talent that the Crimson Tide offense possesses. The proof was in the images of Lacy’s big runs up the middle and Yeldon’s more quick & agile runs for the better part of three quarters, both of which involved the ball carrier to shake off a tackle or two from their opponent.