The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

BCS Championship

January 7, 2013

40 years ago, Irish-Tide played game for the ages

(Continued)

That game was especially galling to Alabama fans, since the tie didn't prevent Notre Dame from winning the first of two national titles during the Parseghian era. The Fighting Irish stayed atop the rankings ahead of both the mighty Spartans (who had four of the top eight picks in the next NFL draft) and a Tide team that posted a perfect record in the quest for an unprecedented third straight championship (to this day, no team has finished No. 1 in The Associated Press rankings three years in a row).

Seven years the epic Notre Dame-Michigan State tilt, with another national title hanging in the balance and the Irish facing third-and-long from their own 3-yard line, Parseghian decided the prudent call was to gamble. He sent in a formation that looked like a run — two tight ends and three running backs — but signaled a pass to quarterback Tom Clements.

"I knew he was going to be throwing the ball out of the end zone. If he slips and falls, or he's sacked, that's a safety and we lose the game," Parseghian recalled. "Yeah, it was high risk. But that's what we had to do. I didn't want to punt it back to them out of our own end zone."

Big tight end Dave Casper, who went on to star in the NFL, was the intended target. The Tide had him well covered. But Weber, who was mainly known for blocking, ran right by the cornerback and found himself all alone far heading toward the sideline. Clements delivered the ball perfectly. Weber juggled it briefly before tucking it away and getting knocked out of bounds.

Game over.

"An over-the-shoulder, pure hands catch, on a play I had never before practiced, thrown by a quarterback who had never thrown me the ball, not even in warm-ups in practice," Weber said. "From my perspective, quite simply a sandlot play between two good athletes."

Notre Dame ran out the clock and celebrated its championship.

Parseghian and Bryant spoke briefly on the field afterward. Later, the Notre Dame coach sent off a letter to his larger-than-life rival, who would pass away 10 years later, about a month after his final game.

"We had great respect for one another," Parseghian said. "Basically, I just told him there were no losers in that game."

 

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