In the 25 days leading up to college football's championship game between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, the Chattanooga Times Free Press is counting down the traditions and memorable moments involving the Irish and the Crimson Tide. Today is No. 1.
When Notre Dame decided to accept invitations to bowl games in 1969 following an absence of more than four decades, facing Alabama was not a matter of if but when.
The Irish and Crimson Tide had been too dominant for too long not to meet, and their first encounter took place in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Eve in 1973. Alabama was 11-0 and already had been crowned national champion by the UPI, while Notre Dame was 10-0 and hoping to gain the top spot in the AP poll, which was released after the bowls.
There were seven lead changes at Tulane Stadium before Notre Dame pulled out a 24-23 triumph, and the game forever will be remembered for Irish quarterback Tom Clements dropping back into his end zone on third-and-8 with two minutes remaining in the game. Clements lofted a 35-yard strike to reserve tight end Robin Weber to seal the win in surprising fashion.
"This was college football at its greatest," Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian said.
Notre Dame starting tight end Dave Casper set up a 19-yard Bob Thomas field goal that gave the Irish their 24-23 lead. Alabama kicker Bill Davis missed the extra point after the Tide had gone up 23-21.
"I think Notre Dame is a great football team," Alabama coach Bear Bryant said, "but I wouldn't mind playing them again tomorrow. In fact, I'd like it."