As Alabama was running back, Najee Harris took a delivery, crashed outside, and headed for the field. He was confronted by Notre Dame cornerback Nick McCloud, who came up to him with his shoulder lowered.
No matter. Harris, a 6-foot-2,29-pound senior, treated McCloud like an oversized fire hydrant, jumping over him with the clean, syncopated pace of an Olympic hurdler, and galloping down the sidelines.
The play was the defining moment for Alabama’s 31:14 win over Notre Dame in a college football playoff semifinal on Friday night in Arlington, Texas – Harris’ elegant athleticism epitomized the ease with which the Crimson Tide dispatched the Fighting Irish.
The win confirmed the legitimacy of Alabama’s return to the top of the college football rankings after missing the four-team playoffs for the first time last season. The senior Crimson Tide went through a Southeastern Conference-only schedule, outpaced a tenacious Florida team in the conference title game, and has now advanced to the January 11th championship against the winner of the other semi-final on Friday between Clemson and Ohio.
Alabama’s dynamic offense involving quarterback Mac Jones, receiver DeVonta Smith and Harris, all of whom finished in the top five in the Heisman Trophy poll, sped into the field for touchdowns on the first three rides, and Notre Dame never threatened the crimson really tide.
Even though Harris, who ended up rushing a total of 125 yards, had the highlight reel game, Smith revealed why he’s the alleged favorite to win the Heisman. On his first touch, he made a short pass at the border and used a textbook pad from John Metchie III to scoot 26 yards for a touchdown. He ended with three touchdowns under his seven catches for 130 yards.
Meanwhile, Jones was usually near flawless, completing 25 of 30 passes for 297 yards.
The only person on Alabama’s sideline who was uncomfortable was Alabama’s trainer Nick Saban, who received a late unsportsmanlike sentence after being angry with officials.
“We didn’t finish the game the way we wanted it,” said Saban in a television interview and added with a knowing smile: “I always have something to complain about.”
Still, he was satisfied enough after a year before the playoffs.