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'77 A Perfect Game Turns No. 5 into No. 1
John Underwood
September 20, 2006
RECORD: 11-1 ALL-AMERICAS: ROSS BROWNER, DE; KEN MACAFEE, TE. THE FIGHTING IRISH STUNNED THE UNBEATEN TEXAS LONGHORNS IN THE COTTON BOWL
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September 20, 2006

'77 A Perfect Game Turns No. 5 Into No. 1

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RECORD: 11-1 ALL-AMERICAS: ROSS BROWNER, DE; KEN MACAFEE, TE. THE FIGHTING IRISH STUNNED THE UNBEATEN TEXAS LONGHORNS IN THE COTTON BOWL

THERE IS a story about a dentist who was renowned for the speed of his work. As a patient would settle into the chair for a crucial extraction, the dentist would lean forward and say, "This won't take long ... did it?"

In less than eight minutes in the second period, Notre Dame performed surgery on Texas that was, if not painless, exquisitely deft. From a 3-3 tie the practically perfect Irish did some remarkable operating, and before 76,701 chilled Cotton Bowl spectators could say bye-bye, national championship, the score was 24-3. Though it would eventually mount to 38-10, the game was over right there.

It was logical that coach Dan Devine would later reaffirm what Notre Damers have been contending all along: The Irish now deserve to have what Texas has been harboring for weeks--the No. 1 ranking. "Yes," said Devine, the stillest, smallest voice in the Irish dressing room, "we ought to be Number 1."

When you sift through the rubble, you find it hard to resist the argument. Consider the evidence:

? The disciplined and aggressive Notre Dame defense made hash out of Coach of the Year Fred Akers's 300-yards-a-game rushing attack, holding it to 131 yards. Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell got 116 of those yards, but he had to carry the ball 29 times to get them.

? Poor Randy McEachern, the people's choice as the best third-string quarterback in America, was rushed unremittingly. He worked hard to complete 11 of 24 passes and put in overtime to get the one Texas touchdown, a pass to Mike Lockett on an extra down granted because of a penalty on the last play of the half.

? Three McEachern passes were intercepted, two by linebackers who couldn't believe their good fortune to be right in the path of his harried, hurried throws. Twice those interceptions initiated Notre Dame touchdown drives. By contrast, Irish quarterback Joe Montana had only one of 25 intercepted.

? The Irish's Jerome Heavens and Vagas Ferguson rushed for 101 and 100 yards, respectively, and never fumbled. Texas did. Three times. And lost each of them. Notre Dame's swarming defenders consistently got to the ball at the point of attack, forcing premature handoffs and pitches that led to turnovers.

? Notre Dame ran 28 plays to Texas' 12 in the third quarter, when its dominance became complete. To counteract the Longhorns' quick defenders, the Irish used a multiplicity of traps, draws and sprint-out passes. Most amazing of all was the way Notre Dame guard Ernie Hughes handled Brad Shearer, Texas' Outland Trophy winner.

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