Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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44 DECEMBER 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI T his year marks the 45th anniversary of former head coach Ara Parseghian's 1973 national champs and the 30th anniversary of former head coach Lou Holtz's 1988 crew that also finished No. 1. There have been nearly a dozen other national champions at Notre Dame — and just as many near misses — but no two football teams in Fighting Irish lore are so intertwined or remark- ably linked than those two. No two champions ever in college football had such eerie parallels the year prior and then during their respective marches to the national championship. Their backgrounds begin with humiliation to provide inspiration, position changes, freshman impact, a seemingly invincible nemesis that was finally vanquished, and statistical replication, among many other factors. Here are a dozen of the amaz- ing coincidences and facts between those two immortalized Notre Dame champions from 1973 and 1988: THE DRAGON THAT NEEDED TO BE SLAIN Notre Dame's 1972 regular season ended with a 22-point loss (45-23) to the team that would finish No. 1 (USC). The Trojans were the bane to Notre Dame's football program while post- ing a 4-0-2 record against the Fighting Irish from 1967-72, with each of the four victories occurring by at least 10 points and averaging 15.8 points. In 1987, the Irish capped the reg- ular season with a 24-point defeat (24-0) to the program that would cap- ture the national title (Miami). The Hurricanes were the new Achilles heel for the Irish while posting a 4-0 record against them from 1983-87. They had outscored Notre Dame 133-20 in those four victories, or an average of 33.3-5.0 per game. BOWLED OVER Despite the pounding to end the regular season, both the 1972 and 1987 teams had already accepted invitations to major bowls, and it presented a chance to redeem them- selves. Instead … On Jan. 1, 1973, Parseghian suffered his worst loss in what would be his 11 seasons at Notre Dame when Ne- braska scored the first 40 points in a 40-6 beating in the Orange Bowl. The Cornhuskers rushed for 300 yards. On Jan. 1, 1988, Holtz incurred his worst defeat in what would be his 11- year career with the Irish when Texas A&M tallied the final 32 points in a 35-10 whipping. The Aggies rushed for 294 yards. After the game, a devastated Holtz saw one ray of hope from the drubbing. "I remember the last time Notre Dame didn't play particularly well in a bowl game," he said, referencing the 1973 Orange Bowl. "I think they came back and had a pretty good year the next season." SENIORITY ISN'T EVERYTHING In 1973, Notre Dame was considered "a year away" from national title contention because it had only five full- time starters on offense and defense who were seniors (tight end Dave Casper, guard Frank Pomarico, cornerback Mike Townsend, nose tackle Gary Potempa and safety Tim Rudnick). In 1988, Notre Dame was again ad- vertised as "a year away." Just as in 1973, they started only five seniors regularly on offense and defense (of- fensive tackle Andy Heck, running back Mark Green, rush end Frank Stams, middle linebacker Wes Pritch- ett and safety George Streeter). THREE IS A MAGIC NUMBER In 1973, Notre Dame elected tri- captains for the first time in its foot- ball history (Townsend, Casper and Pomarico). In 1988, Holtz had tri-captains for the first time in his 19 seasons as a head coach (linebacker Ned Bolcar, Green and Heck). RIGHT MOVE, RIGHT TIME In 1973, a pivotal move for the of- fensive line was shifting No. 1 senior TWO CHAMPIONS, ONE BOND Never have two Notre Dame teams had such symmetry as 1973 and 1988 Junior quarterbacks Tom Clements (left) and Tony Rice led the 1973 and 1988 teams, respectively, to the national title while putting up remarkably similar statistics. PHOTOS COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH DIGITAL MEDIA

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