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Alabama dispatches Notre Dame in Rose Bowl semifinal

The heavily favored Alabama Crimson Tide easily dispatched Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a Rose Bowl semifinal as DeVonta Smith cemented his status as the nation’s top player.

Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver De’Vonta Smith catches a touchdown pass in front of Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback Nick McCloud during the second half in the Rose Bowl at AT&T Stadium Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

ARLINGTON, Texas — The No. 1-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide easily dispatched the No. 4 seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish 31-14 during a Rose Bowl semifinal displaced by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Crimson Tide cruised to the victory on the back of Heisman favorite DeVonta Smith, who hauled in seven passes for 130 yards and three touchdowns.

The game opened ominously for Notre Dame, who entered as the largest underdog in the history of the College Football Playoff. Returner Chris Tyree fumbled the opening kickoff and set up the Fighting Irish inside their 10-yard line. Quarterback Ian Book threw a backward pass out of bounds for another fumble two plays later, effectively dooming the drive and handing over a possession Alabama in the process.

From there, the Crimson Tide laid into the Irish. The first of Smith’s touchdowns capped off seven-play drive that never saw a third down. Alabama forced a punt on the following possession and responded with a 97-yard drive, 53 of which came on a magnificent run from running back Najee Harris who hurdled Notre Dame defensive back Nick McCloud in the open field.

At that point, the Fighting Irish finally sprung back to life. Book and running back Kyren Williams sparked a 15-play drive that finished in the end zone and cut the Crimson Tide lead to a single score.

But the swing proved to be short-lived. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones ran or threw on every snap of a six-play drive, completing the series with a 34-yard connection with Smith to re-establish a two-possession lead. The Irish would never come within 14 points the rest of the way.

With the semifinal in the rearview mirror, Alabama can turn its attention to a national championship game that will also feature the winner of a Sugar Bowl matchup of the Ohio State Buckeyes or Clemson Tigers. Should the Tigers emerge victorious, it would mark the fourth time they will face the Crimson Tide for the national championship in the last six years.