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Chicken Soup Game ticket

Image courtesy Notre Dame Archives

Notre Dame and the University of Houston met at the 1979 Cotton Bowl in Dallas on a freezing New Year's Day in 1979.  The Irish's QB Joe Montana was suffering from the flu and sat most of the game out while being fed hot chicken soup in the locker room.  With Houston leading 34-12 with less than eight minutes remaining in the game, Joe found the strength to return to the field.  By the end of the game the Fighting Irish had roared back to take a 35-34 victory with no time left on the clock, largely as a result of Montana's participation.  It was one of the greatest college football comebacks ever played and was the beginning of Joe Montana's status as a legendary player.


Joe Montana

Image courtesy Notre Dame Archives

While Joe Montana's play was masterful, the weather played an important role in the game as well.  An ugly mixture of sleet, freezing drizzle, and freezing rain began on the afternoon of December 30 and continued into the mid-morning hours of the 31st.  About three-quarters of an inch of liquid precipitation fell during that time while temperatures were in the 29 to 31 degree range, resulting in a thick layer of glaze covering every exposed surface.  Then, on the day of the game, cold air roared into north Texas on the backside of the storm system with northwest winds gusting to 38 mph.  The high for the day was only 24 degrees with a low of 14.  Needless to say, playing conditions were brutal and Montana's bout of the flu didn't help matters.


Frigid Fan

Image courtesy Notre Dame Archives


The weather maps tell the story:


Decemebr 31, 1978 surface map centered on Texas
This is a surface weather map at 6am Dallas time on December 31, 1978, zoomed into the Texas Plains.  Low pressure is over Shreveport, LA and is pulling cold, wet air into Texas.  The grey shaded area is where precipitation is falling, which in this case is a wintry mix of snow, sleet, and freezing rain.  Dallas is reporting a temperature of 30, and just up the road in Oklahoma City it's only 16, and Amarillo is reporting 9 degrees with moderate snowfall.



January 1, 1979 surface map
Here's the weather map for 6am January 1, showing the entire country.  Frigid high pressure, centered over Nebraska, has shoved the previous day's storm system off to the east and is bringing intensely cold Arctic air into the U.S.  Dallas is reporting 20 degrees with a north wind, and up in the northern Plains the mercury has plunged into the double digits below zero.

The map below vividly shows the magnitude of the cold air pouring in from the north on New Year's Day.  The huge area of blues and purples represent bone chillingly cold air cascading from the North Pole all the way down into Texas.

Cold blast

Later, referring to the ice-covered city and stinging wind, Joe Montana quipped, "It was beautiful -- beautiful if you were spending the day looking out the window."