Lacy's 11-yard touchdown reception with 31 seconds left in the half left the Irish fans shaking the heads in disbelief, while the Alabama faithful broke out that familiar "SEC! SEC! SEC!"
Alabama made it 35-0 on McCarron's second TD pass of the night, a 34-yarder to Cooper without a Notre Dame defender in sight.
The Irish finally scored late in the third quarter, a 2-yard run by Everett Golson that served no other purpose except to end Alabama's remarkable scoreless streak in the BCS title games, which stretched to 108 minute and 7 seconds — the equivalent of nearly two full games — before the Notre Dame quarterback fought his way into the end zone.
The only BCS title game that was more of a blowout was USC's 55-19 victory over Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl, a title that was later vacated because of NCAA violations.
About the only time Alabama stumbled was when McCarron had a miscommunication with his All-American center, Barrett Jones, in the closing seconds. The fiery McCarron shouted at Jones, who just shoved him away. But as the seconds ticked off, they were right on the same page, hugging Saban and celebrating another title.
Notre Dame went from unranked in the preseason to the top spot in the rankings by the end of the regular season. But that long-awaited championship will have to wait at least one more years. Golson completed his first season as the starter by going 21 of 36 for 270 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. But he got no help from the running game, which was held to 32 yards — 170 below their season average.
Kelly had vowed this was only beginning, insisting the bar has been raised in South Bend no matter what the outcome.
"We made incredible strides to get to this point," he said. "Now it's pretty clear what we've got to do to get over the top."