With Notre Dame just 8 days out from a much awaited Cotton Bowl date with Clemson, the fewer storylines we get leading up to the game the better. No news, is good news. With that in mind, I went back and looked at Notre Dame’s Bowl history. With 36 bowls there were a ton to pick from. However, given the year and Notre Dame’s 5-2 record, here are five Cotton Bowls to chew on. These are presented in no particular order.
1970 Cotton Bowl – Texas 21, Notre Dame 17
The Irish entered the 1970 Cotton Bowl with a record of 8-1-1 and a #9 ranking. Undefeated Texas on the other hand, was looking to secure a National Championship. Despite being a seven point underdog, the Irish raced to a 10-0 lead. In the end, Notre Dame matched Texas statistically in most categories. On the strength of 231 yards passing by Joe Theismann, Notre Dame took a 17-14 lead with 6:52 remaining. Texas scored with 1:08 left following a long drive, and won the National Title. Despite the loss, the Irish finished season ranked #5.
1987 Cotton Bowl – Texas A&M 35, Notre Dame 10
In just his second year in South Bend, Lou Holtz and the Irish started 8-1 with wins over three ranked teams. Following an impressive victory over 10th ranked Alabama, the wheels fell off as the injured Irish staggered to an 8-4 finish culminating in a 35-10 loss to Texas A&M. So what is this game remembered for? Many believe the three game slide fueled the Irish off-season and laid the ground work for a National Championship in 1988.
1979 Cotton Bowl – Notre Dame 35, Houston 34
The Irish coming off of a National Championship season in 1977, started slowly in 1978 going 0-2 out of the gates. They rattled off three wins over ranked opponents during an eight game winning streak. The streak ended in the L.A. Coliseum on a late USC field goal. Nevertheless, the Irish at 8-3 headed to the Cotton Bowl to play #9 Houston. In a game that is remembered for “Chicken Soup”, horrendous weather, and Joe Montana’s heroics, it should be noted that special teams and defense played arguably the biggest role in the comeback. A touchdown by Steve Cichy on a blocked punt at 34-12 started the Notre Dame rally. Following a Montana interception, it was a tackle by freshmen Joe Gramke on 4th and 1 that gave “Joe Cool” one more chance to win the game.
1978 Cotton Bowl – Notre Dame 38, Texas 10
Texas had the #1 ranking, Heisman Trophy winner in Earl Campbell, and a National Championship seemingly in their grasp. The Irish were probably a little under ranked at #5 as they simply dominated their opponents over the final nine weeks by an average margin of 28 points. Behind a stout defense and the running of Vagas Ferguson and Jerome Heavens, the Irish domination continued as they blew Texas out. They became Notre Dame’s tenth National Championship team, when several teams ahead of them in the polls all stumbled.
1994 Cotton Bowl – Notre Dame 24, Texas A&M 21
I lament including this win because the game was anti-climatic after Florida State, Notre Dame was robbed of a title, and it was their last major bowl victory. Playing a team ranked lower, gave Notre Dame almost no chance to move up in the polls. The Irish did not do themselves any favors, by struggling to put away an A&M team that had one victory (Louisville) over a ranked opponent.
The Cotton Bowl has historically been pretty good to Notre Dame, lets hope this trend continues!