As I watched this year’s National Championship game, which was played in the Superdome, in New Orleans, I started thinking about one of my favorite Notre Dame football memories, which also took place in New Orleans; the 1992 Sugar Bowl between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Florida Gators.
“What’s the difference between Cheerios and Notre Dame?”
“Cheerios belong in a bowl.”
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish finished the 1991 season with a 9-3 record, which a certain amount of people felt was not worthy of a Sugar Bowl berth. While this made many Notre Dame fans angry, head coach Lou Holtz used this to motivate his team for their matchup against No. 3 Florida. The Gators (10-1) were an obvious favorite heading into the game, and they quickly showed the world why, jumping out to a 16-7 lead at halftime. The Irish, under the leadership of head coach Lou Holtz, weren’t the kind of team to just give up, and Coach Holtz must have given his team some kind of pep talk at half time, because the Gators never saw what was about to happen to them in the second half. Notre Dame came out and ran for 245 yards in the second half, and outscored the Gators 32-12, to beat them by a final score of 39-28.
One of the best stories I’ve heard about that 1992 Sugar Bowl comes from my friend, and former Notre Dame tight end, Oscar McBride. Oscar describes the magic that head coach worked that night to pull off the win over the Gators.
“In December of 1991 we were down in New Orleans getting ready to play in the Sugar Bowl. No one expected us to win this bowl. No one even thought we belonged in this bowl. They kept telling us that we belonged in a cereal bowl. Our last team practice before the game was held in the convention center in full pads, on concrete, because it was raining outside. Coach Holtz calls us together after practice and gives us his rallying pep talk. Lou began, ‘We have a big game coming up and I want to tell you about Steve Spurrier and our opponent. Now here is what is going to happen tomorrow. We are going to get the ball on offense, we are going to give the ball to Jerome Bettis, and he is going to score on the first drive. Then we are going to come out on defense, we are going to get the ball back on a turnover, Jerome is going to get the ball back on offense, and he is going to score again. Then I want you to look across the field and you will see Steve Spurrier throw his headset on the ground and start to pout.’”
“January 1, 1992 … we take the field and Jerome gets the ball on offense. Jerome then scores on a 45 yard touchdown play. The Gators get the ball back on offense, and Demetrius DuBose gets the interception giving us the ball back. Then Jerome comes back out and scores again. We look across the field and right before our eyes Spurrier throws down his headset, crosses his arms and starts to pout.”
“We all look at each other and say … ‘What just happened??’”
“After that moment, my level of respect for Coach Holtz went through the roof. I knew that not only had he studied the team and knew their tendencies, studied what they were going to do on offense, defense, and special teams; but he also had studied the manners of Coach Spurrier as well. He really went above and beyond in doing his job.”
Below are some highlights from the “The Cheerios Bowl,” a Notre Dame victory that helped set the tone for the following season.
Cheers & GO IRISH!