As Notre Dame wraps up its 2011 campaign at 8-4, it is ineligible for a BCS bowl. The Fighting Irish are slated however to continue their proud tradition of bowl appearances as the team will very likely be tapped to play in this year’s Champs Sports Bowl.
The Fighting Irish have participated in some of the most memorable and exciting bowl games in history. We here at Irish Central present you with the team’s ten finest appearances.
1. 1973 Sugar Bowl: Notre Dame - 24, Alabama - 23
This match-up pitted the then undefeated and top ranked Alabama against a similarly undefeated Notre Dame team at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. Two legendary coaches in Paul Bear Bryant and Ara Parseghian made this game one for the ages. Notre Dame Quarterback and Sugar Bowl MVP Tom Clements led the Irish to victory with a 36 yard touchdown pass with 2:12 left on the clock. This game lifted the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to a number one ranking and secured the school its first national championship since 1966.
2. 1989 Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame - 34, West Virginia - 21
Notre Dame was a perfect 11-0 and ranked number one in the nation entering this contest against the West Virginia Mountaineers. The team managed a win on both Tony Rice’s deft quarterbacking ability, and a punishing defense. They faced a fearsome challenge in Mountaineers QB Major Harris, who finished the game with 213 yards and two touchdowns on 7-of-11 passing. The Fighting Irish Michael Stonebreaker and Jeff Alm made a statement early on by tackling Harris and separating his shoulder in the process. This severely limited his scrambling skills and lifted the Irish to a 34-21 victory. This was the first national championship for the Irish in 11 years.
3. 1978 Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame - 38, Texas - 10
The Longhorns were ranked number one headed into this bowl game, making them heavy favorites. The game featured college football’s most distinguished players, including the Heisman Trophy Winner Earl Campbell of Texas as well as the Lombardi and Maxwell award winner Ross
Browner for the Irish. Notre Dame handily defeated the Longhorns 38-10 between the two headed rushing attack of Jerome Heavens (101 yards) and Vagas Ferguson (100 yards).
4. 1925 Rose Bowl: Notre Dame - 27, Stanford - 10
This game was Notre Dame’s first ever bowl appearance and game played on the west coast. This contest featured legends on the sidelines, in Knute Rockne and Glenn “Pop” Warner, and on the field, in the Fighting Irish’s four horsemen. Stanford lost despite a 114-yard rushing effort by All-American Ernie Nevers.
5. 1990 Orange Bowl: Notre Dame - 21, Colorado - 6
The Irish finally notched an Orange Bowl victory in 1990, after failing to do so throughout the 1980s. Colorado entered the game as the consensus number one team in the nation with an 11-0 record. A powerful offense, Colorado, capitalized on 50 of 57 scoring opportunities all season inside the opponent’s 20. However, they failed on three tries to score against the Irish in the first half as Notre Dame held on for the victory.
6. 1979 Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame - 35, Houston - 34
Considered one of the best college games ever to be played, this game has been dubbed the “Chicken Soup” bowl. The conditions were so frigid that day that the Notre Dame Quarterback, Joe Montana, was sidelined by Hypothermia. He was fed the warm concoction to get his body temperature up. The Cougars led the Irish 34-12 with 7:37 remaining in the fourth quarter. Montana then reappeared in the game to lead the Irish to a miraculous comeback.
7. 1975 Orange Bowl: Notre Dame - 13, Alabama - 11
This victory was the final one for legendary Fighting Irish coach, Ara Parseghian. He was victorious in defeat of famed coach, Paul Bear Bryant. Notre Dame came into this match-up as 11.5 point underdogs ranked 9th in the country. The Fighting Irish defense carried this game for Notre Dame only allowing 285 yards of total offense. For the second straight year, Alabama’s national title hopes were dashed by the Irish. Parseghian called this win the best of his career.
8. 1970 Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame - 24, Texas - 11
The Fighting Irish were led by quarterback Joe Theismann’s two rushing touchdowns and one in the air. He threw 16 passes for 176 yards. Jim Yoder led the Irish in receiving yards that day with 96 yards. The defense willed the Fighting Irish to victory by forcing 5 turnovers. This win marked the first Irish bowl win in 46 years.
9. 1994 Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame - 24, Texas A&M - 21
The Fighting Irish took out their revenge on Texas A&M by squeezing out a victory. The Irish ranked 4th after falling to Boston College in the final game of the year. They had hoped a strong showing in Dallas would help the team claim its 12th national championship. Notre Dame running back Lee Becton paced the Irish with 138 yards rushing.
10. 1992 Sugar Bowl: Notre Dame - 39, Florida - 28
The Fighting Irish were 9-3 and ranked 18th in the nation in a surprising invite to the bowl. They faced a fearsome foe in a third ranked Florida, coached by Steve Spurrier. The Irish at the half found themselves trailing the Gators 16-7 with only 34 yards in total rushing. In the locker room, coach Lou Holtz gave a fiery speech that fired up his players and pushed them to victory. Notre Dame finished the game with 279 yards on the ground. Jerome Bettis’s 150 yards led all runners. The Gators vaulted offense had the ball in the Irish 20 yard line seven times and could only muster two touchdowns.