Score: Notre Dame 24, Alabama 23
Star(s): Notre Dame: Tom Clements (MVP) – 169 Pass Yds, 74 Rush Yds. Al Hunter 93-Yard Kickoff Return TD. Wayne Bullock 79 Rush Yds, 1 TD. Alabama: Wilbur Jackson 62 Rush Yds, 1 TD.
Why It Was Great: The 1973 Sugar Bowl featured undefeated No.1 Alabama against undefeated No. 3 Notre Dame in what was billed as “The Game of the Century”. The game is remembered for one of the most historic first downs in football history. Notre Dame was pinned inside its own five-yard line late in the fourth quarter, leading 24-23. Notre Dame’s Ara Parseghian designed a third down play that was disguised as a run. “There were two options on the play,” Parseghian said, “Clements could bootleg the ball around the left end to throw to Casper, the primary receiver, who would cross the middle of the field from right to left.” The only problem was that Casper had been taken out of the play by the Alabama defense, forcing Tom Clements to check down to his second option, Robin Weber.
Weber would make his first catch of the season, a 35-yard completion for an Irish first down, preventing Alabama from getting the ball back with a chance to win the game. Alabama’s Bear Bryant said, “Two points would have won the game, or three on a field goal. When we had them backed up like that, if I had been a betting man, I would have bet anything we were going to win. I think Notre Dame is a great team. But I wouldn’t mind playing them again. In fact, I’d like that.” The AP National Championship was awarded to Notre Dame while the controversial, and now defunct, UPI (United Press International) National Championship was awarded to Alabama. Three decades after the game, Coach Parseghian would say, “There were no losers in that game.”