FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame has spoiled Alabama’s chances at capturing a national title before in the programs’ brief history together.
When the No. 1 Irish (12-0) play the No. 2 Crimson Tide (12-1) tonight in Miami, Notre Dame will be trying to prevent Alabama from winning a title for the third time in the schools’ seventh meeting.
The Irish prevent the Tide from winning titles in 1973 and 1974.
I don’t think you could ever pick a better matchup between two great programs than Alabama and Notre Dame, particularly if you go back to Bear Bryant, the ’73 and ’74 games, cost him the national championship, former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz said.
When he broke the record (for most wins by a college coach), I called coach Bryant, and I said, Coach, congratulations, I felt I should call because I contributed to your success.’ He had been in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship when I was at Arkansas. You know what he said to me, Ah, coach, I’ll be the guy that goes down as the guy that couldn’t beat Notre Dame.’ He wanted to beat Notre Dame so bad, and he could never do it. It just brings back so many great memories.
The meetings in ’73 and ’74 are the most memorable of the previous six games, which occurred in the regular season, between the programs.
The first game between Notre Dame and Alabama was the most thrilling as the Irish outlasted Alabama 24-23 in the 1973 Sugar Bowl. The Tide came into the bowl game ranked No. 1, and the Irish were No. 3.
Notre Dame pulled off the upset when the Irish decided to throw on third-and-9 from their own 2, catching the Tide off guard and getting the first down on a 36-yard pass from Tom Clements to Robin Weber. Notre Dame ran out the clock from there.
The Irish ruined the Tide’s title hopes the next season with a 13-11 win in the Orange Bowl. Alabama came in ranked No. 21 and 11-0, and Notre Dame was 9-2 and ranked No. 9.
After scoring the first 13 points in the 1974 meeting, Notre Dame held on from there sealing the win with a late interception in Ara Parseghian’s final game with the Irish.
The stakes weren’t as high in the teams’ third meeting, but Notre Dame pulled off the upset again. The No. 18 Irish defeated the No. 10 Tide 21-18.
In 1980, No. 6 Notre Dame got the best of No. 5 Alabama again, notching a 7-0 win in Birmingham, Ala. The victory left Bryant with a 0-4 record against the Irish.
Alabama picked up its first win in the series in 1986, as the No. 2 Tide beat the Irish 28-10 in Birmingham in Holtz’s first season at Notre Dame.
Holtz got the Irish back in the win column the next season when he led the No. 10 Irish to a 37-6 win over the No. 7 Tide in Notre Dame Stadium.