Field Scovell remembers, "When you hear you've got a real chance to get Notre Dame for the first time in 45 years, you don't care about anything else."
Scovell and Evans hauled it. They left Penn State at 6 p.m. Sunday, still not knowing—indeed, not caring—how the Nittany Lions voted. They drove in a blizzard to Pittsburgh, got lost once, flew to Chicago, slept three hours, flew to South Bend, couldn't land, circled and held, finally landed, whereupon Scovell rushed to a phone to call Father Edmund Joyce, the executive vice-president of Notre Dame, who had been much in favor of the game.
"The ring bearer is here," Scovell said to Father Joyce, "and I sure do need a finger to put it on."
The happiest words Scovell had heard in weeks came from Father Joyce.
"You have nothing to worry about," he said.
The Cotton Bowl probably would have wound up with LSU, a 9-1 team that is going nowhere, had it guessed wrong on Notre Dame. And it would then have had perhaps the least attractive game of all. Tough, but dull. Meanwhile, the other bowls didn't do half bad. The Orange has a splendid game between Penn State (10-0) and Missouri (9-1); the Gator lucked into Tennessee (9-1) and Florida (8-1-1); and even the Sugar can look forward to a great deal of excitement from Arkansas (9-1) and Ole Miss (7-3), which exhibits Elisha Archie Manning III. The Rose was set all along with the Pacific Eight winner against the Big Ten runner-up, but Pasadena suddenly got charmed when Michigan (8-2) became a co-champion instead of a runner-up by shocking the Buckeyes. Now USC (9-0-1) has somebody to get emotionally up for.
Above all, however, Texas-Notre Dame is the glamour game. If there is any suspense left in the fight for No. 1—Texas has already received the UPI and Hall of Fame awards—it will be in Dallas before the revved-up 73,000 who crowd into the Cotton Bowl.
This is not Ara Parseghian's best team from South Bend, but it is a solid one, big and rugged, with Mike McCoy and other beasts up front, with better running than any of Ara's teams except 1966. Quarterback Joe Theismann, who is a little on the order of Texas' James Street, is good enough to have tied USC twice and, with the exception of losing early to Purdue, he is good enough to have thrashed every other foe this season. Notre Dame will not have the quickness or dazzle that Texas found against Arkansas, but it will have the same rage and determination. The two teams had a common foe in Navy. Texas won by 56-17, but Notre Dame won by 47-0.
A Notre Dame victory is never surprising, yet Texas is better than many believe who have only the Arkansas television game on which to judge Darrell Royal's Longhorns. Texas should have a quickness overall that the Irish are unaccustomed to—a quickness that could not be detected in the Arkansas game because the Porkers were just as alert and agile. A bowl veteran, Texas should perform like the deserving No. 1 team that it is. James Street, after all, with the help of Steve Worster, Cotton Speyrer and others, has never lost a game.
Should Notre Dame win, however, and should this victory be accompanied by, say, a Missouri win over Penn State and a Michigan win over USC, no No. 1 pretender would remain unbeaten. The postbowl vote would, in such case, become veeerrry in-ter-est-ing, and Ohio State, sitting by the fire, would become a contender all over again.