Notre Dame 13
MIAMI- "I feel so washed out," said Ara Parseghian, his emotional Notre Dame coaching career at a sad- but happy- end after 11 pressure seasons (video).
"He (Parseghian) was a senior to us and playing his last game just like the rest of the seniors," said halfback Eric Penick.
And, said Alabama's Bear Bryant, another coaching immortal, "I don't feel jinxed in bowls."
Notre Dame's 13-11 Orange Bowl triumph over first or second-ranked Alabama (depending on what poll you prefer) Wednesday night was more a tale of two coaches than two teams.
To some extent, it was similar to Notre Dame's thrilling 24-23 national championship Sugar Bowl shootout over Alabama last season. This time, the twice-beaten Irish came in with no hope of repeating as the nation's No. 1 team.
Nonetheless, they shattered Alabama's national championship dreams for the second consecutive season, extended the Crimson Tide bowl jinx- what else can you call it?- to eight years and presented Parseghian with a going-away present he'll always cherish.
The victory by ninth-ranked Notre Dame, an 11 1/2-point underdog, virtually assured the Associated Press writers' college national championship to the Oklahoma Sooners, who completed their season with an 11-0 mark- the only perfect record among the nation's 128 major college teams- but were ineligible for a bowl game because they are on probation for recruiting violations.
But the United Press International board of college coaches poll didn't recognize the Sooners because of their violations, raising some doubt as to who they, will vote No. 1 in their final poll early next week.
"This game ranks right up there among the greatest of my career," said an emotionally drained Parseghian. "I wish you could have been in here after the game was over. You would have seen there's no truth to the story out of San Francisco about disunity on this team.
"I didn't overburden the team with this being my last game. I thanked them as profoundly as I could after the game because this is something I'll always remember. But before the game, I just asked them to play like men and go out like men."
Parseghian, who announced his resignation earlier this month and now turns the famed Notre Dame coaching reins over to Dan Devine, wound up as the second winningest Irish coach with a 95-17-4 record. He trails the legendary Knute Rockne by 10 victories.
"I told them before the game they owed this game to themselves and the people who follow Notre Dame," said Parseghian: Parseghian's words worked well. The Irish defense, much maligned after a late-season 55-24 loss to USC played superbly as they forced five fumbles and intercepted two passes while constantly bottling up Alabama's Wishbone attack.
"I knew our offensive front four could not contain their defensive front," said Alabama coach Bear Bryant, "but our offensive line has not been consistent all year. Our team was ready to play."
Wayne Bullock, playing his final game for Notre Dame, came off a sick bed to carry the brunt of the offensive attack and score the game's first touchdown on a four yard run, and sophomore' Mark McLane added the other score on a nine yard sprint.
But it was the aggressive play of the Irish defense, especially that of tackle Steve Niehaus and linebackers John Dubenetzki and Reggie Barnett, that curbed the Tide and once again ruined the start of the New Year for Bear Bryant.
The Irish had only one defensive lapse all game and that came with only 3:13 remaining when Richard Todd completed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Russ Schamun on a fourth down and five situation.
That play was made possible when defensive back Randy Payne slipped and fell on the artificial turf and when Alabama successfully made a two point conversion there was still time for the Tide to pull the contest out.
They got their chance with 1:39 to go when Notre Dame was forced to give up the ball on a punt taking the ball on their own 38. Todd moved the team to the Notre Dame 38 on two quick passes and was moving the team into field goal range when Barnett pulled the defensive play of the game for the Irish by intercepting an intended pass for Randy Billingsly (video).
That was one of several mistakes which proved costly to the Crimson Tide.
The first occured early in the first quarter when Shelby fumbled a punt on the Alabama 16 and Notre Dame's Al Samuel recovered.
Five plays later Bullock, who emerged as the game's leading rusher with 83 yards, scored from the four.
Later in the period Notre Dame recovered an errant pitchout by Todd but failed to capitalize when Dave Reeve missed a field goal attempt.
The Irish got another break early in the second period when Washington was called for offsides as Reeve was lining up to try a kick from the 45. Notre Dame was given a first down and they scored four plays later when McLane burst off left tackle for a nine yard touchdown.
Reeve, however, missed the extra point and that almost proved fatal when Alabama pulled within two points late in the fourth quarter.
Alabama could muster virtually no offense against Notre Dame as the Tide managed only 285 yards total offense.
Their only other score came on a 20 yard field goal by Danny Ridgeway in the second period after a drive had boggled on the Notre Dame four.
"I'm happy Ara went out on a winning note, but I'm not happy it was at our expense," said Bryant.