COUNTDOWN TO SHOWDOWN
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. 20.
Alabama and Notre Dame had glorious runs throughout the 1970s, but the Irish's 21-18 win over the Crimson Tide at South Bend late in the '76 season did not pack a national punch.
Whatever plans either program had for a title run were derailed on the opening Saturday of the season, when the Crimson Tide were stunned by Ole Miss, 10-7, and the Irish were walloped by Pittsburgh, 31-10. Pittsburgh, in its final season under coach Johnny Majors, went on to win the national championship.
Alabama entered the '76 season having won five straight SEC titles, but that streak was halted the first weekend in October, when the Tide traveled to Georgia and lost 21-0. Notre Dame suffered its second setback in a 23-14 loss at Georgia Tech, the weekend before Alabama's visit.
Though it may be the least memorable of the six Alabama-Notre Dame games, the '76 matchup was up for grabs until Tide quarterback Jeff Rutledge missed an open Pete Cavan in the end zone and instead threw into double coverage and was intercepted. Rick Slager completed 15 of 23 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown for the Irish, while freshman running back Vegas Ferguson rushed for 107 yards.
Each team wound up 9-3, with Notre Dame defeating Penn State in the Gator Bowl and Alabama throttling UCLA in the Liberty Bowl.