Jan. 1, 1975
MIAMI — Alabama and Notre Dame locked horns again.
Although the stakes weren’t as high (only Alabama was ranked number one, undefeated and looking for a national championship), the atmosphere was just as electric and frenzied as the 1973 Sugar Bowl. And this game was to be Ara Parseghian’s last as head coach at Notre Dame. After 11 successful seasons and two national championships, he was hanging up his coach’s playbook.
The Fighting Irish, though decided underdogs with their 9-2 ledger, gave Parseghian a proper going-away present – a 13-11 victory that denied the Tide the national title for the second straight year and gave Alabama and coach Paul “Bear” Bryant its eighth consecutive non-win in bowl competition.
Notre Dame staked itself to a 13-0 lead midway through the opening half and withstood the Tide’s offensive thrust until the final gun sounded. The Irish got their first touchdown in the opening period. Alabama fumbled a Tony Brantley punt and Al Samuel recovered the ball at the Tide’s 16-yard line.
Three plays later Notre Dame faced a fourth-and-one call at the seven. Wayne Bullock powered his way over the left side for three yards and a crucial first down. On the next play, he slithered into the end zone on a four-yard jaunt for the first Irish score. Dave Reeve added the extra point.
With 50 seconds left in the first quarter, the Notre Dame offense took control at its own 23-yard line and quarterback Tom Clements engineered another scoring drive – this one encompassing 77 yards in 17 plays and taking 7:21 off the clock. The Irish attempted only one pass in the march, a nine-yard completion to Mark McLane. The running game featured McLane and Samuel working the sweeps and Bullock picking up his yardage up the middle.
The drive almost stalled at the Alabama 28-yard line when the Irish faced a fourth-and-four situation. But an offsides call on the Tide on the Irish field-goal attempt gave Notre Dame new life. The Irish made the most of that resurrection, as McLane took a pitchout and ran 12 yards. Two plays later he twisted loose from the Alabama defense and went nine yards for the score. Reeve’s kick was off the mark and Notre Dame had to settle for a 13-0 lead.
The Irish fumbled on their next possession and gave the Tide the football on the Notre Dame 40-yard line. Alabama’s game plan was to go to the air, and quarterback Richard Todd hit Ozzie Newsome for 11 yards and Jerry Brown for 12 yards to help the Tide move to the Notre Dame eight-yard mark. But the Irish defense dug in, and Alabama could manage only a 21-yard field goal by Danny Ridgeway.
After a scoreless third quarter in which the Irish held Alabama to just three first downs, all by passing, Notre Dame took over at its own eight. The offense, dormant since the second quarter, surged to life. Samuel picked up 20 yards on a pair of sweeps to get the Irish out of the hole. But the Tide stopped a fourth-down try and immediately went to work.
Again, Alabama, which had averaged only 11 passes a game during the season, went to the air. Todd carried the Tide to the Irish 12-yard line but then delivered an interception to John Dubenetzky, who returned the ball 16 yards to the 26.
The Irish couldn’t put together a sustained drive and turned the ball over to Alabama with 4:29 left. On fourth down and five yards to go, Todd let loose a 48-yard touchdown pass to Russ Schamun. The Tide added two points on a conversion pass from Todd to George Pugh.
Alabama got the ball back with just under two minutes remaining. Needing only a field goal to avenge the 24-23 loss in the ’73 Sugar Bowl, Todd tossed to Schamun for a 16-yard gain and to Randy Billinsley for an eight-yard reception. But Reggie Barnett intercepted Todd’s next throw and sealed the verdict in favor of the Irish.
Offensive Most Valuable Player
Wayne Bullock, Fullback