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Notre Dame 24, Alabama 23 (1973): Championship is Bittersweet as Alabama Loses Sugar Bowl

Guiding Alabama to an undefeated regular season proved Bear Bryant is back. But the disappointing result in Monday's game will leave a bit of a question mark around this national title

Malcolm Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

As part of our coverage of the BCS National Championship Game between Alabama and Notre Dame, we're going through the archives and re-running our posts from previous match-ups between the two teams. This one is from the 1973 Sugar Bowl.*

Perhaps the only comforting thing to Bear Bryant and his team after the Sugar Bowl loss Monday is that they are assured a split national title. And though it's all they're going to get right now, that might be good enough after an eight-year drought that raised questions about whether the game had passed Alabama's coach by.

But all that said -- the defeat still had to come as a kick in the gut. The Tide had rallied from a 14-10 deficit at halftime to take a 23-21 lead in the fourth quarter -- but watched its slip away with a 19-yard field goal by Notre Dame that ended up being enough.

In a way, that was the story of the game for Alabama -- the Tide simply had a hard time stopping the Irish. Notre Dame generated 421 yards of offense on 71 plays, or more than 100 yards more than the Tide on just four additional snaps. When the turnover battle is even -- at three apiece -- it's going to be hard to come away with a win.

In a way, the season is already a redemption for Bear Bryant. After all, it was just three years ago that Bryant was wrapping up two consecutive seasons where he just finished above .500, either of which would easily qualify for the worst season since his inaugural year at Denny Stadium. Now he's guided the Tide to an undefeated regular season, and came up one point short of making it all the way through.

Nonetheless, it's a tricky situation for the coaches' poll, which has now seen it's "national champion" lose bowl games twice in four seasons. There will inevitably be a push for it to follow the Associated Press' lead in waiting until after the bowl game for the final vote; whether the coaches' poll's administrators will agree to that is anyone's guess.

That won't change this year's result; Alabama owns one half of this year's mythical national title. He's probably not happy with how his team performed Monday, and he's almost certainly disappointed with the outcome

But we have a feeling that Bear Bryant will take it just the same.

*In case you can't figure this out on your own, we don't really have archives dating back to 1973. We're having fun with a game-by-game look at the history of the Alabama-Notre Dame series. Research includes here and here and a bit here.