ARLINGTON, Texas — In one of the most unusual Rose Bowls of all time, the University of Alabama took care of business against No. 4 Notre Dame, throttling the Fighting Irish, 31-14, to clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
"This was a great win for us," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said postgame. "We knew this would be a tough game, and it certainly was. We'll learn what we need to learn from it so we have a chance to improve and get better."
It was the usual suspects who shined inside AT&T Stadium on Friday afternoon — quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris, and the Heisman Trophy front runner, wide out DeVonta Smith.
After forcing (10-2) Notre Dame to punt on its opening possession, the Crimson Tide went to work methodically, piecing together a drive that only lasted seven plays but went for 79 yards, resulting in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Smith.
On its subsequent drive following a second Irish punt, Alabama went the length of the field with Jones finding tight end Jahleel Billingsley for a 19-yard score to go up 14-0 barely halfway through the opening period.
But the throw and catch from Jones to Billingsley wasn't the highlight play of that drive.
One play before that, Harris took the handoff from Jones and hurdled over Notre Dame defensive back Nick McCloud like a track star, scampering down the sideline for a gain of 53 yards, the longest rush of his career.
Harris' vintage hurdle was indicative of how the rest of the afternoon would go for the Fighting Irish.
Alabama's 14-0 advantage early on had coach Brian Kelly seeing shades of the beatdown in Miami eight years ago, but his team would respond on the ensuing drive.
Running back Kyren Williams capped off a 15-play, 75-yard drive, that took up over eight minutes of game time, with a one-yard score with 11:16 in the second quarter.
However, when Jones and company got the ball back it took them only six plays to find pay dirt on Smith's 34-yard touchdown catch and run, that gave Alabama a 21-7 lead, which it would take into intermission.
Crimson Tide linebacker Christian Harris shut down any chances the Fighting Irish had of making a comeback with his interception of Book on their first possession of the second half.
Alabama capitalized off the turnover when Smith tied the single-game Rose Bowl record with his third touchdown catch of the day, hauling in a seven-yard pass where he tipped-toed in bounds to secure six points.
His hat trick in a bowl game is also a school record. Smith finished with seven catches for 130 yards on his way to being named the game's Offensive MVP.
"We love it when our players get recognized," Saban said. "Smitty has done as much for our team as any player could do for any team."
In the early stages of the fourth quarter, Crimson Tide placekicker Will Reichard added a 41-yard field goal to remain perfect on the season going 13-of-13.
Jones finished his day completing 25 of his 30 passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns, while Harris ran for 125 yards on 15 carries and caught four passes for another 30 yards.
Alabama's 437 yards of total offense, while still impressive, was the lowest output since its first game of the season against Missouri back on Sept. 26.
"Yeah, I mean, we kind of protected the lead a little bit," Jones said of the season-low 31-point outing. "Obviously we have to do a better job of just playing the plays, not look at the scoreboard.
"But really that just starts with me. Stay aggressive, do what Sark tells us to do. So really just getting ready for the next game. We got to make improvements, find out what we did bad, find out what we did good, just grow off that."
His counterpart, Book, went 27-of-38 for 229 yards and that lone interception. The Irish signal caller had 15 carries for 55 yards and one touchdown.
Notre Dame was able to amount for 375 yards of total offense, 64 of which came on the ground by Williams, who was the team's leading rusher, as Alabama was able to hold the Fighting Irish to 139 rushing yards, well below Notre Dame's season average of 217.
Crimson Tide defensive back Patrick Surtain was named the game's Defensive MVP as the Jim Thorpe Award finalist finished with three total tackles, one pass break-up, and 0.5 tackles for loss.
Along with Surtain in the secondary, defensive back DeMarcco Hellams stepped up and led Alabama in tackles with 12, while recording a sack and tackle for loss.
Defensive lineman Christian Barmore had Alabama's other sack. The Crimson Tide only forced three tackles for loss in the 17-point victory.
Now, No. 1 Alabama (12-0) will await the winner of the Allstate Sugar Bowl between No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State to see who it will face off against in the CFP national title game in Miami on Jan. 11.