Friday, October 10, 2008

The Comeback at Kenan | by Pat

It's been 33 years since Notre Dame last traveled to North Carolina to play the Tarheels. And on that hot, muggy day in October of 1975, a lackluster Irish offensive showing through the first three quarters saw the three touchdown favorites down 14-6 to the home team. What happened next is a great piece of ND football lore.

"It was an impressive atmosphere,'' said Merv Johnson, Notre Dame's offensive coordinator at the time and now the director of football operations at Oklahoma. "I remember a lot of women in the more expensive seats were wearing hats -- kind of like the Kentucky Derby. ... And UNC had the game under control; it seemed like we couldn't get anything going.
After quaterback Rick Slager threw another series of incompletions, Coach Devine decided to make a switch and put in his untested backup.
Said Bill Paschall, UNC's starting quarterback that season: "I wish the other guy, their starting quarterback, had done a little better -- just enough so they didn't have to put a new guy in. If they hadn't put Montana in, I believe we would have won that game."
History likely wouldn't have changed much for Joe if he hadn't gone in against North Carolina. But he did get in against the Tarheels. And he led the Fighting Irish to his first comeback win in a career filled with come from behind victories.
"No, I'd never heard of Joe Montana before the game," said then-UNC coach Bill Dooley, who had two Catholic priests on the sideline that day for extra luck. "But I've gotten to know him since. And I remember him telling me how his coaches didn't start him the next game, either."

The following weekend, Montana came off the bench in the fourth quarter again, that time leading the Irish to a three-touchdown, come-from behind victory against Air Force. And three years later, in the Cotton Bowl against Houston, he led the Irish to another fourth-quarter comeback despite becoming so ill the he was fed chicken soup during the game to keep his body warm.

The "Joe Cool" born in Chapel Hill was not a fluke. And The Comeback at Kenan became one for the football biography books.

ND video historian tjnd88 once again comes through and provides the visuals of the birth of an Irish and NFL legend.