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NOTRE DAME 16
Leading by seven as the fourth quarter begins, Alabama mixes passing plays with a steady dose of Lacy and Yeldon (left). This reflects the team's yearlong tendencies: When the Tide has led by 10 points or less, it has thrown the ball 40.3% of the time. Sticking to this balanced approach, 'Bama eats up more than eight minutes on a long drive. The passes, however, play into the hands of Notre Dame's defense. The Irish front seven have gotten sacks on 7.5% of opponents' pass attempts this season, 22nd best in the nation. Surprisingly Alabama's offensive line has given up sacks on 7.1% of those plays, which ranks it 89th. Notre Dame sacks McCarron on third-and-10, forcing a field goal that puts the Tide up 23--13.
The Irish get the ball and begin their own drive. On third-and-eight Golson takes off. On the season he has converted 16 of 24 third-down runs, well over 50%. (By comparison McCarron has converted one of five.) Golson is successful again, and the Notre Dame drive continues into the red zone. But Golson runs out of magic. The drive stalls at the 10 with less than a minute left, and, needing two scores, coach Brian Kelly elects to kick a field goal. After notching the three points, the Irish are unable to recover the onside kick. Game over. Roll Tide.
BY THE NUMBERS
72.5 Percentage of plays on which Alabama has run the ball in the fourth quarter of games this season.
65.1 Percentage of plays on which Notre Dame has run the ball in the fourth quarter.
8.9 Yards gained per pass attempt by Alabama in the fourth quarter, compared with 8.1 overall.
6.2 Yards gained per pass attempt by Notre Dame in the fourth quarter, compared with 7.0 overall.
1.0 Yards differential in average gain per play, passing and running, between Alabama (6.6) and Notre Dame (5.6) in the fourth quarter of games this season.
THE IRISH FRONT SEVEN HAVE GOTTEN SACKS ON 7.5% OF OPPONENTS' PASS ATTEMPTS THIS SEASON. SURPRISINGLY, ALABAMA'S OFFENSIVE LINE HAS GIVEN UP SACKS ON 7.1% OF PASSING PLAYS.