|1973 Sugar Bowl|
|Date||December 31, 1973|
|Location||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|MVP||Tom Clements, Notre Dame QB|
|Favorite||Alabama by 6½ points |
|Referee||Gene Calhoun (Big Ten)|
(split crew: Big Ten, SEC)
|United States TV coverage|
|Announcers||Chris Schenkel, Bud Wilkinson, and Howard Cosell|
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.
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. Following their victory over Auburn, university officials announced they accepted an invitation to play in the Sugar Bowl. 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.
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. The appearance marked the first for Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, and their fifth overall bowl game appearance.
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. 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. The Tide cut the lead to 14–10 late in the quarter on a 39-yard Bill Davis field goal.
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. 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. 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.
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. During the punt, the Alabama punter was run into and Notre Dame was flagged with a 15 yard roughing the kicker personal foul. In 1973, a personal foul wasn't an automatic first down in college football, so since it occurred on a 3rd and 20, accepting the penalty would have given Alabama a fourth and 5 on their own 45 yard line, only down one with mere minutes remaining. Coach Bear Bryant, knowing even a safety would win the game, decided to decline the penalty and try and stop Notre Dame who had to start on their own 1 yard line. Bryant's strategy seemed ready to pay off when his defense stymied Notre Dame on two plays and forced 3rd and 10 on their 1 yard line. 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.
- "Bama's air threat has Ara worried". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. December 31, 1973. p. 2, part 2.
- "Irish tip 'Bama, they're No. 1". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. January 1, 1974. p. 1, part 2.
- "Irish best in country?". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. January 1, 1974. p. 21.
- Underwood, John (January 13, 1974). "With contempt for caution". Sports Illustrated. p. 70.
- "Notre Dame broke up Alabama wishbone". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). January 2, 1974. p. 37.
- 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.
- "Tide tops both polls". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). UPI/AP. December 4, 1973. p. 20.
- "Alabama wins National Title in UPI Poll". The Los Angeles Times. UPI. December 5, 1973. p. B3. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
- Reed, Delbert (November 17, 1973). "It's official: Tide-Irish in Sugar Bowl". The Tuscaloosa News. p. B1. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
- "1973 Sugar Bowl". 2010 Notre Dame Football Supplement (PDF). South Bend, IN: Notre Dame Athletics Media Relations. 2010. p. 116. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
- "Final word in polls: Notre Dame #1". The Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. January 3, 1974. p. 13. Retrieved January 25, 2011.