Tide hopes second meeting against Notre Dame ends in victory

File footage of the 1973 Sugar Bowl game. Source: WBRC
File footage of the 1973 Sugar Bowl game. Source: WBRC

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Notre Dame and Alabama met for the very first time in the Sugar Bowl forty years ago Dec. 31, 1973.

"It was a football game between two great universities, two great names, two great traditions," University of Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore said. "The most powerful names in the country."

For many Crimson Tide players taking on the Fighting Irish was an honor.

"As a kid growing up liking football you had to respect Notre Dame," the kicker from the 1973 Alabama team, Dr. Bill Davis, said. "They had kind of set the standard."

Top-ranked Alabama took on second-ranked Notre Dame in the game of the century.

"The national attention that it received...I felt the pressure and every player on our team felt the pressure. Even Coach Paul Bear Bryant because it meant something. It did," said quarterback from the 1973 Alabama team, Gary Rutledge.

When the Tide first met the Irish they were shocked by their size and anxious to take on the historic team.

"Coach Bryant always told us if you want to be the best you got to play the best," said then-Alabama defensive end, John Croyle. "Here was a chance to go ahead and finish the deal. The first time we met the Notre Dame guys huge. I mean their running backs were bigger than we were. They just had this air about them. Coach Bryant came to my locker and he said, 'Dave Casper is yours.' [I was] 6'6 and I weighed 104. He looked like a house with a head on it."

Notre Dame came out on top after a field goal in the fourth quarterback by Bob Thomas to put the Fighting Irish up 24-23 for the win.

"It was the one game in Coach Bryant's career where he said, 'We just ran out of time,'" John Croyle said.

Forty years later, Alabama will take on Notre Dame for a shot at another national title Jan. 7, 2013. Alabama hopes this time around the tide will turn in their favor.

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