1973 Sugar Bowl

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1973 Sugar Bowl
1234 Total
Notre Dame 6873 24
Alabama 01076 23
DateDecember 31, 1973
StadiumTulane Stadium
LocationNew Orleans, Louisiana
MVPTom Clements, Notre Dame QB
FavoriteAlabama by 6½ points [1]
RefereeGene Calhoun (Big Ten)
(split crew: Big Ten, SEC)
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersChris Schenkel, Bud Wilkinson, and Howard Cosell
Nielsen ratings25.3
Sugar Bowl
 < 1972 (Dec) 1974

The 1973 Sugar Bowl, part of the 1973 bowl game season, took place on December 31, 1973, at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana. The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) met the independent Notre Dame Fighting Irish; both teams were undefeated.[2][3][4]

Underdog Notre Dame won 24–23;[2][3][5] the game received a 25.3 Nielsen rating, making it one of the highest-rated college football games in history.[6]



Alabama completed the 1973 regular season with an 11–0 record, as conference champions and as national champions as determined by the final UPI coaches poll, released in early December.[7][8] Following their victory over Auburn, university officials announced they accepted an invitation to play in the Sugar Bowl.[9] The appearance marked the sixth for Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, their 27th overall bowl game appearance and their first all-time meeting against Notre Dame.[9]

Notre Dame[edit]

Notre Dame finished the regular season with a 10–0 record. Following their victory over Miami, university officials announced they accepted an invitation to play in the Sugar Bowl.[9] The appearance marked the first for Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, and their fifth overall bowl game appearance.

Game summary[edit]

With a cold rain falling, Notre Dame opened the scoring with a Wayne Bullock 6-yard touchdown run, and after a missed extra point took an early 6–0 lead.[10] In the second quarter, Alabama took the lead on a 6-yard Randy Billingsley touchdown run, only to see the Irish go up 14–7 on the following play. On the ensuing kickoff, was returned 93-yards for a touchdown by Al Hunter.[10] The Tide cut the lead to 14–10 late in the quarter on a 39-yard Bill Davis field goal.[10]

In the third quarter, the teams traded touchdowns with Alabama scoring first on a 5-yard Wilbur Jackson touchdown run and Notre Dame on a 12-yard Eric Penick touchdown run to make the score 21–17 entering the final period.[10] After quarterback Richard Todd made a 25-yard touchdown reception from Mike Stock on a beautiful trick play, Davis missed the extra point to only put Alabama up 23–21.[10] The Irish responded with a 19-yard field goal by Bob Thomas to take the lead 24–23 with 4:26 remaining in the game.[10]

Late in the fourth quarter, Alabama pinned Notre Dame back deep in Irish territory with a punt, hoping to get the ball back within easy range of a game-winning field goal. However, on third and long Irish QB Tom Clements connected with backup TE Robin Weber on a long pass that gave the Irish a first down and allowed them to run out the clock. With their victory, the Associated Press awarded the Irish the national championship in ranking them first in their final poll.[11]

Scoring summary[edit]

Scoring summary
Quarter Time Drive Team Scoring information Score
Plays Yards TOP Notre Dame Alabama
1 3:19 6 plays, 64 yards 2:32 Notre Dame Wayne Bullock 6-yard touchdown run, Bob Thomas kick no good 6 0
2 7:30 7 plays, 52 yards 2:40 Alabama Randy Billingsley 6-yard touchdown run, Bill Davis kick good 6 7
2 7:17 None None Notre Dame Al Hunter 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, 2-point pass good 14 7
2 0:39 7 plays, 69 yards 2:40 Alabama 39-yard field goal by Bill Davis 14 10
3 11:02 11 plays, 93 yards 3:57 Alabama Wilbur Jackson 5-yard touchdown run, Bill Davis kick good 14 17
3 2:30 1 play, 12 yards 0:07 Notre Dame Eric Penick 12-yard touchdown run, Bob Thomas kick good 21 17
4 9:33 5 plays, 39 yards 2:14 Alabama Richard Todd 25-yard touchdown reception from Mike Stock, Bill Davis kick no good 21 23
4 4:26 11 plays, 79 yards 5:13 Notre Dame 19-yard field goal by Bob Thomas 24 23
"TOP" = time of possession. For other American football terms, see Glossary of American football. 24 23


  1. ^ "Bama's air threat has Ara worried". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. December 31, 1973. p. 2, part 2.
  2. ^ a b "Irish tip 'Bama, they're No. 1". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. January 1, 1974. p. 1, part 2.
  3. ^ a b "Irish best in country?". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. January 1, 1974. p. 21.
  4. ^ Underwood, John (January 13, 1974). "With contempt for caution". Sports Illustrated. p. 70.
  5. ^ "Notre Dame broke up Alabama wishbone". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). January 2, 1974. p. 37.
  6. ^ Pennington, Bill (December 8, 2012). "Before Computer Rankings and the Superdome, There Was Notre Dame vs. Alabama in the 1973 Sugar Bowl". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Tide tops both polls". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). UPI/AP. December 4, 1973. p. 20.
  8. ^ "Alabama wins National Title in UPI Poll". The Los Angeles Times. UPI. December 5, 1973. p. B3. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c Reed, Delbert (November 17, 1973). "It's official: Tide-Irish in Sugar Bowl". The Tuscaloosa News. p. B1. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "1973 Sugar Bowl". 2010 Notre Dame Football Supplement (PDF). South Bend, IN: Notre Dame Athletics Media Relations. 2010. p. 116. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
  11. ^ "Final word in polls: Notre Dame #1". The Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. January 3, 1974. p. 13. Retrieved January 25, 2011.