A Look Back at Notre Dame’s Cotton Bowl History

The 13th game on the Notre Dame football schedule has the Irish penciled in to face the Clemson Tigers at the annual Cotton Bowl on December 29. While the contest marks the first time in a quarter-century that Notre Dame has competed in this storied bowl game, it will be the eighth time overall. Below is a look back at those seven previous matchups:

Out of the Bowl Hiatus: January 1, 1970

Making their first bowl game appearance in 45 years, the ninth-ranked Irish nearly destroyed the national title dreams of Texas before falling, 21-17 . The Longhorns were coming off their Game of the Century win over Arkansas, but fell behind early, 10-0, before then scoring two touchdowns to take the lead with just over 10 minutes left. Joe Theismann drove Notre Dame down the field and took back the lead with 6:52 left in the game. With their season on the line, Texas managed to drive down the field and twice convert crucial fourth-down plays to set up the game-winning plunge with just 1:08 remaining.

Snapping Texas’s Winning Streak: January 1, 1971

Gaining a measure of revenge exactly one year later, the Irish employed their Mirrored Wishbone defense to neutralize the potent Longhorn running game and win, 24-11. The victory snapped Texas’ 31-game winning streak, with all of the points being scored in the first two quarters of play. Having fits all afternoon trying to deal with the Notre Dame gameplan, the run-friendly Longhorns were forced to go to the air 27 times. Indicative of the frustration that was felt by the Texas faithful, their All-American running back Steve Worster coughed up the ball four times.

Dan Devine’s Title Team: January 2, 1978

The Irish and Longhorns met again, with this clash undoubtedly the most memorable of the seven previous trips. The reason is because the combination of a dominating Notre Dame performance and a trio of fortuitous defeats elsewhere allowed them to move from being fifth-ranked to capturing their tenth national title. The underdog Irish took full advantage of six Texas turnovers to rout the top-ranked Longhorns, 38-10, with Vagas Ferguson scoring three touchdowns, including one by air. Both Ferguson and Jerome Heavens rushed for 100 yards, while the Notre Dame defense limited Heisman winner Earl Campbell to 118 on the afternoon.

The Chicken Soup Game: January 1, 1979

Joe Montana closed out his Irish career with a comeback for the ages in conditions that saw a wind-chill temperature of minus-8 degrees, The Irish took a 12-0 lead over Houston before the Cougars ran off 34 unanswered points. The first score of the comeback came on a blocked punt return with 7:25 left, followed by a two-point conversion to make it 34-20. A quick defensive stop, a 61-yards drive by the flu-ridden Montana and another two-pointer made it 34-28 with 4:15 to go. That was followed by more defensive excellence that again got the ball back. Despite fumbling away that opportunity, one more chance arrived when Houston was stopped at their own 29 with 35 seconds left. Montana then found Kris Haines as time expired, with Joe Unis giving the Irish a 35-34 win.

The Groundwork for ’88: January 1, 1988

Four Irish turnovers that led to 22 Texas A&M points was a recipe for disaster, which ended in a 35-10 win for the Aggies. Notre Dame led 10-3 before the miscues took their toll, while the A&M ground game rolled up 294 yards on the day. Heisman winner Tim Brown was shut down in the second half, with his frustration boiling over when he was flagged for a personal foul after tackling an Aggie player for taking his towel. The loss to close out the 1987 Notre Dame football schedule did lay the groundwork for the national title team one year later.

A Blowout of the Aggies: January 1, 1993

Motivated by undefeated Texas A&M’s disdain towards playing them, an inspired Notre Dame squad answered with a 28-3 pounding. The fifth-ranked Irish broke a scoreless deadlock in the final minute of the first half with a touchdown, then began the third quarter with another. That latter score came on a toss to Jerome Bettis, who later added a pair of touchdown runs, while Reggie Brooks led all rushers with 115 yards. The Aggies had averaged 228 rushing yards on the year, but were held to just 78 by the stifling Irish defense.

Notre Dame’s Consolation Prize: January 1, 1994

In a rematch one year later, the Irish managed to escape with a 24-21 win, when A&M narrowly missed a 31-yard field goal with 2:17 left. Notre Dame entered the game with slim national title hopes, but needed to come back twice just to capture the victory. Running back Lee Becton was the offensive star for the Irish with 138 yards, helping the Irish finish 11-1 on the year.  As everyone knows, Notre Dame finished 2nd overall behind Florida State and their identical record even though Notre Dame beat he Seminoles head to head in the final month of the regular season.

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