The seventh-ranked Fighting Irish entered the 47th Sugar Bowl angling
to prove that "unbeaten, untied and unbelievable" top-ranked Georgia had
escaped the regular season 11-0 as a matter of luck. The Bulldogs,
before former President Jimmy Carter and 77,894 other fans, sought their
first national championship. Freshman sensation Herschel Walker and his
undersized 'Dawgs were determined to hush the detractors who were
skeptical of their chances.
"During our stay in New Orleans, the only people there who thought we
could win were the Georgia fans," said the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner.
"Playing Notre Dame, everyone thought we were going to get killed."
With the game's first possession, Notre Dame got out to an early 3-0
lead, when Irish booter Harry Oliver sent a 50-yard field goal through
the uprights following the 48-yard Notre Dame drive.
The ensuing Bulldogs drive saw Georgia's championship hopes nearly
dashed on the first play. Walker was tossed the ball on a sweep to the
right side, and received a bruising introduction to Notre Dame football.
"The doctor said I dislocated my shoulder, and they told me it was
over," reflected the embattled workhorse. "I looked at the doctor, and
said 'You've got to be joking me. You've got to put it back in place.' I
told myself, 'I didn't come this far to dislocate my shoulder and not
"So, they put it back in place, and I (went) back on the field."
While Bulldog team doctors were furiously toiling to fix their bread n'
butter back, Notre Dame moved the ball to the Georgia 31-yard line, but
no further. From the 48-yard line, Oliver again set up for the kick,
however, this time, Georgia freshman Terry Hoage breached the line and
thwarted the ball's trajectory, leaving the score 3-0 Irish. The failed
attempt served as a portent of things to come.
Taking over from Notre Dame's 49-yard line, the 'Dawgs voyaged 20 yards
on six Walker runs, when Georgia All-American foot man Rex Robinson
thumped the 46-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3 with less than two
minutes remaining in the first quarter.
"I remember (our offensive lineman) watching me trying to put my
shoulder back in place on the sideline," said Walker of his estimable
return to the game. "I think (they) decided that they were going to give
a little bit more, and not let me get injured anymore. At that time, I
think we took the momentum of the game over."
On the resulting kickoff, a miscue between Notre Dame return men Jim
Stone and Ty Barber resulted in a recovery for the Bulldogs by Bob Kelly
at the Irish one-yard line. Two plays later, Walker soared over the pile
and the goal line for the first touchdown of the game.
The Bulldogs' tightfisted defense came up big again on the following
possession when Notre Dame fullback John Sweeney fumbled the ball on a
Frank Ros tackle. Bulldog rover Chris Welton descended upon the
displaced pill deep in Irish territory.
The 'Dawgs had little land left to claim in their quest for the end
zone. Three plays later, quarterback Buck Belue once again handed to
Walker, who took it around the end untouched for his second score of the
The mood on the Georgia sideline was dramatically different than the one
that had gripped the Bulldogs only moments earlier.
"I think we knew then that we were going to win this game," recalled
Walker. "We hadn't lost all year. We didn't know how to lose."
With the Bulldogs up 17-3 early in the second quarter, it appeared as
though the Irish were in for a pounding. However, there would be no
further scoring in the first half. The Irish had finally halted the 'Dawgs'
end zone loitering, but hadn't yet been able to decode Georgia's
defense. The Irish would take their dissatisfaction into the locker
room, down 17-3.
Walker evoked the Bulldog locker room sentiment at half time.
"We knew we had to continue to pound them with the football, and the
defense had to continue to stop them because they had such a large team.
We thought they would just try to wear us down."
On their second possession of the third quarter, the Irish drove from
their own 40-yard line to the Georgia 13. On third down, quarterback
Blair Kiel spotted flanker Pete Holohan in the back of the end zone, but
his pass was batted away by All-America cornerback Scott Woerner, who
already had an interception on the day. Oliver was again given the call
to salvage the Irish drive with three points, but his kick sailed wide
right, making that his second spoiled effort of the game.
On its next possession, Notre Dame finally found the stripe. The Irish
traversed the Superdome turf 57 yards in 10 plays, culminated by a Phil
Carter touchdown run from the one-yard line. With but a period
remaining, the score was now 17-10 favoring the Bulldogs.
Georgia's offensive woes compounded to start the fourth quarter, with
the Bulldogs unable to penetrate the red zone. A bigger, stronger Notre
Dame defense was taking its toll on Georgia's outsized O, as they had
Down only a touchdown with momentum weighing heavily in their favor, the
Irish reached the Georgia 21-yard line, striking on five quick plays.
However, the 'Dawgs were able to rally in the red zone once again, as
Woerner wrestled Carter to the turf for a one-yard loss forcing the
field goal attempt. Oliver once more swung for the uprights, this time
from 38 yards, but shanked the kick wide left. Yet again, his leg had
With five minutes to go in the game, Notre Dame embarked on their final
effort. On second-and-three from midfield, Notre Dame showed pass, but
Bulldog defensive guard Eddie Weaver infiltrated the backfield, dragging
the beleaguered quarterback to the unforgiving Superdome turf.
Third-and-seven saw Kiel shoot for receiver Nick Vehr, connecting just
short of the first down with mere inches remaining. On fourth down, the
offense remained on the field. The Irish were going for it. With the
expectation of a running play, Kiel took the snap and, instead, dropped
back, and set up for an open Dean Masztak, who was running up the
sideline. Kiel released the ball, but it never reached its intended
target, instead finding the hands of Woerner, who stepped in front of
the big tight end for the backbreaking interception.
The Bulldogs took over with three minutes remaining, hoping to exhaust
the clock. Highlighting the game's waning minutes was Belue's first
completion of the day to flanker Amp Arnold. The Bulldogs would go on to
run out the clock on the game, and their national championship season (video).
No longer would skeptics attribute Walker and his 'Dawgs' successes to
"People said that we were lucky, but you're not lucky when you have
people that perform," remarked the game's 'Most Outstanding Player.' "We
were a team that was never going to quit. We were not big size-wise, but
we were big at heart."