Notre Dame Athletic Director Moose Krause grabbed Coach Dan Devine by the shoulders and said, "Dan, that's the greatest comeback in Notre Dame's history."
"Ah, come on, Moose, you say that every time," said Devine, who added, "I am a little excited."
Quarterback Joe Montana directed the comeback, a 35-34 victory over Houston, despite a bad case of the chills that kept him in the dressing room for the third quarter.
"I wasn't sick, I was just shivering," said Montana. He scored one touchdown and connected with Chris Haines with a touchdown pass as time ran out on the clock to tie the score. Joe Unis booted twice for the winning extra point.
"Every kicker fantazies about winning a game like this," said Unis, who was filling in for regular kicker Chuck Male. "I just prayed to the good Lord that I could come through. After I kicked the first time I saw the yellow flag and hoped the penalty was not on us.
"Then I had to get my concentration back. I had to get my composure back. I took two deep breaths, concentrated on the tee, keeping my head down and following through. I hit both of them well."
But if Haines and Montana, who earlier got into a personal squabble, hadn't combined for the big play, Unis would never have lived his fantasy.
"It's called 91," said Haines. "It's a quick out pattern. We ran it with six seconds left, but I got a little mixed up. Joe then asked me if I could beat my man again, I said 'yes.'
"Joe and I got into an argument earlier when I ran a wrong pattern but we patched it up and apologized to each other. I was hurting and it was cold and I started feeling sorry for myself. Then I looked around and saw the others weren't quitting so I told myself I couldn't quit."
With the clock running out and Notre Dame driving for what then would have been the winning touchdown, Montana fumbled and Houston took over.
"I thought it was all over," said Montana, "but then I saw we had timeouts left and our defense really played a super game."
The Notre Dame coach said that he had never lost confidence in his team.
"I felt like we could, you know, come back. I think (Steve) Cichy's return gave us the lift we needed. We needed something to get us on the board then."
The cold seriously affected some of the players.
Running back Jerome Heavens said he was so chilled that he was shivering throughout the game. Montana, who had suffered from the flue earlier in the week, said his body temperature was 96 degrees at halftime, and he was shivering even in the warm dressing room. He did not play the first period of downs in the second half but warmed up and returned to the game in the third quarter.
On the Houston side, the Cougars had been laughing and enjoying it, but then it came crashing down and star running back Emmett King was the only one to admit to what had obviously happened.
"Well, we were dominating," he said, "but then I'd say our minds got away from us. We started celebrating too early."
The loss could be traced to a decision by Houston coach Bill Yeoman to go for a first down rather than punt on the Couger 29-yard line. If that play had worked, Houston may have won.
"I don't think anybody on the team wanted to punt," said Yeoman. "We had been kicking it, what, 10 to 15 yards?"
So Houston decided to go for it. Davis handed off to King, who actually lost some yardage on the left side. Notre Dame took the ball and won the game.
"We ran something that had worked for us all day, but it didn't work," Davis said. "The hole was there somewhere. I guess it was outside. It sure wasn't inside where Emmett cut.
King said he knew he was short.
"There wasn't any penetration," he said. "That was it."
Davis said Yeoman's decision not to punt "was not a bad move at all. We felt we could make it. Everybody thought we could.
"I realize that some fans wanted us to punt, but we didn't have time to take a survey," David added.
Davis said there was no moral victory in playing the prestigious Fighting Irish so closely.
"I wanted to beat them," he said. "It doesn't thrill me to lose this football game. But anything can happen in football, and I guess anything did happen."
Houston defensive back Alvin Ruben fought back tears and muttered, "I just can't believe it happened."
Said Yeoman: "It would have been an extremely great win and it's a very hard loss."
"It was kind of like our go-ahead in the third quarter," Yeoman said of the Irish rally. "They just got one more point out of their comeback than we did out of our go-ahead."