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The most yards Notre Dame gave up this season was 379; Alabama cracked the 500 mark early in the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide finished with 529 yards, converted 8 of 13 third downs, got five touchdowns in five trips to the red zone and became the first team since Stanford in 2009 to score at least 42 points against the Irish.
"Pretty darn good football team, but not good enough," Kelly said, assessing his team as Alabama’s victory celebration was wrapping up on the field. "So it’s clear what we need to do in the offseason."
What they do next will come without Te’o, the senior linebacker who was widely considered the nation’s top defensive player this season.
He was a nonfactor early with a couple of missed tackles — rare for him — and that foreshadowed how the rest of the night would go for the Fighting Irish.
"The best thing about this experience is it creates fire, it creates fuel, for both the guys staying here and the guys leaving," Te’o said. "Everybody here tonight will be better because of it."
Te’o leaves as an absolute surefire Notre Dame fan favorite, for both what he did on the field and how he handled things away from the game.
He’s a Mormon from Hawaii who spurned USC to sign with Notre Dame. He was one of the biggest sparkplugs for this current revitalization of Irish football, and saw his personal story become one of the more compelling parts of this Notre Dame season — when he mourned the deaths of both his girlfriend and his grandmother by playing perhaps his best game, a 12-tackle show against Michigan State.
He wound up finishing second in the Heisman Trophy race.
The Irish wound up finishing second in the national title chase.
And when it was all over, Te’o showed absolutely no regrets. He was subbed out of the game with about 2:15 remaining, shook some hands and started saying his farewell to the college game.
"Obviously we wish the night could have ended in a different way," Te’o said, "but the season, the year, my career here, I’ve been truly blessed to be at Notre Dame.
"And I’ll forever be proud to say that I’m a Notre Dame Fighting Irish."
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