The ice wasn't very nice at the coldest Cotton Bowl ever today, but Notre Dame heated up the joint with another of its furious and phenomenal fourth-quarter rallies to achieve what Coach Dan Devine later described as "the greatest comeback victory I've ever had."
Kris Haines' diving eight-yeard touchdown catch with no time left on the clock and Joe Unis' extra point -- the equivalent of a 25-yard field goal -- provided the final flourished in a 23-point final 7 1/2 minutes that allowed the Irish to chill the University of Houston, 35-34, in the Brrrrr Bowl.
The total of 69 points beat the previous Cotton Bowl record of 67 set in 1946 when Texas beat Missouri, 40-27.
The wind-chill factor was minus-seven when the game started and the man who threw the game-winning touchdown pass -- Irish quarterback Joe Montana -- was too cold to come out for the second half.
His body temperature had dropped to 96 degrees at intermission and he was suffering from severe chills and nausea. He spent the first 10 minutes of the second half thawing out under blankets in the Notre Dame dressing room. When he reentered the game with 4:40 left in the third quarter, all seemed lost as Notre Dame trailed, 34-12.
By that time only about 20,000 frigid folks were left in the ice-coated stands on a day when the Cotton Bowl had an estimated 39,500 no-shows, and 32,500 numbed bodies on the scene for one of the most bizarre games in the event's 79-year history.
"On this team, nothing is ever lost until the final gun," Haines said. "Nobody ever gave up. That's what it means to play for Notre Dame."
The Irish began to get some hope with 7:25 left in the game when freshman Tony Belden broke through the middle and blocked Jay Wyatt's punt. The ball bounced high, and Steve Cichy, another freshman, picked it cleanly out of the air.
"I had two guys attached to my feet, but I broke loose from them, got a great block from Brendan Moynihan and just took off," Cichy said. "I really don't remember too much else; I was totally oblivious to everything except getting to the goal line."
He did precisely that, running 33 yards for the touchdown, and when Montana hit Vagas Ferguson with a short pass for the two-point conversion, the Irish trailed by only 34-20. More impoortant, Cichy said, "Right then our whole bench started to bubble.
"We had the wind, we knew the defense could hold them and we thought our offense could do the rest. I never doubted we could pull it out."
Notre Dame followed Cichy's script to perfection, with a little help from the Cougars, who could not pick up a first down on their next possession.
So Montana, who had tossed up four interceptions earlier in the day, merely drove his taem 59 yards in six plays, aided by a pass interference call on Houston's Gerald Cook that gave the Irish first and goal at the three.
Two plays later, Montana kept the football and scooted around left end for a two-yard touchdown, and his pass to Hanies for the two-point conversion cut the lead to 34-28 with 4:15 left in the game.
Once again Notre Dame's defense held, and Notre Dame took over at the Houston 49 with 2:25 left.Four took off downfield on a scramble, carrying the ball dangerouldy out in front of his body.
Montana was hit from behind by linebacker David Hodge, and the ball bounced loose, recovered by Houston's Tommy Ebner with 1:50 remaining. Surely now the Irish were through. But once again, Houston gave them one final, fatal chance.
On fourth and one from their own 29 with 35 seconds left, Houston Coach Bill Yeoman elected to try for a first down instead of punting, a decision that will be widely second-guessed around these parts for months to come.
"We were kicking the ball 10 or 12 yards into the wind and our center, Chuck Brown, had a had wrist and couldn't snap the ball," yeoman siad. "So we decided to try it. I was completely responsible for that call."
Houston quarterback Danny Davis, who had run for two touchdowns and passed for another earlier in the game, took the snap from center and elected to hand off to Emmett King, who was popped immediately by tackle Mike Calhoun. Right end Joe Granke put the finishing touch on a tackle that gave Notre Dame the ball at the Houston 29 with 28 secnds remaining.
From there, Montana kept the ball for 11 yards around right end, then passed 10 more to Hanies at the right sideline, stopping the clock with the Irish at the eight and six seconds left.
Montana's sideline pass intended for Haines was overthrown, and only two seconds remained, time for one last play.
"It was a 91 pass, where I take a few short steps back and throw a few short steps back and throw a quick out," Montana said of his gamewinning throw. "I went to the short side of the field and Kris Kept fighting the coverage and got free. He made a supercatch, but he does that all the time."
"We've had great success on that out pattern all year," Haines said. "It's my job to get open and his job to throw it low and outside. There was no doubt about it. It was a perfect throw."
Now it was Unis' turn to make all those Irish eyes smile. His first extra point was cleanly throught the uprights, and Notre Dame began celebrating, unaware that a yellow flag had been dropped, signaling illegal motion.
The field was cleared and Unis spotted his kicking tee at the 15. Once again, there never was any doubt, and this time the celebration was not stopped.
Outside the Irish locker room, the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, the school presidnet wearing a sporty green wool Notre Dame cap, led the school band in the Irish fight song. And a few minutes later, he embraced Devine and admitted, "I can hardly believe it."
Neither could anyoun else who saw it, and there were precious few folks in the stands at the start, or finish, who could claim they did, kthough all 72,000 seats were sold.
"A lot of people missed a heck of a game," said Hamines, a man who spent the last two days in a sickbed suffering with a virus. "I'm still shivering myself, but I'm kinda' glad we decided to show up."