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Time for redemption

Elkhartan threw a TD pass in 1973 ND-Alabama game ... for the Crimson Tide.


Posted on Dec. 27, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

Redemption. It's a word not casually tossed around.

Mike Stock doesn't hesitate using it.

He wants a morsel of redemption for his beloved Crimson Tide in the BCS Championship game against Notre Dame and he's not shy about saying so.

That noted, he is having a lot of fun these days.

“It's redemption time,” said Stock, an Elkhart native who played for the University of Alabama in 1973 when it played Notre Dame in an epic No. 1 vs. No. 2 Sugar Bowl matchup. It was dubbed “The Game of the Century,” though the label has been used many times in college football history.

This game answered the bell, though.

There were six lead changes.

There was a 93-yard kickoff return by the Irish.

There was a perfectly executed trick play TD by the Tide.

The game had everything.

“The first two times we played were for the national championship,” Stock said. “We should have won at least one of them. It was a shame one of those teams had to lose.”

Stock almost won that 1973 game with one timely flick of his right arm.

Then sophomores, Stock and backup quarterback Richard Todd, worked a halfback pass in the fourth quarter which gave Alabama its last lead at 23-21.

“We practiced that play for three weeks. To tell you the truth, I didn't know if we were going to use it or not,” Stock said.

Stock was standing on the sidelines when legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant says “Go in.” He and Todd, backups, went in for halfback Wilbur Jackson and QB Gary Rutledge.

“It happened so quick, I didn't have time (to think),” Stock said.

The play — Right, End Over, 68 throwback — had “impeccable timing,” he recalled. With Todd under center and Stock in a wing of the wishbone formation, Todd turned and pitched the ball to Stock who rolled right.

Todd went left, quietly out of the play, before curling out and down the left sideline. Stock stopped, avoided a heavy Notre Dame rush and fired a pass to Todd, who jogged into the end zone unscathed.

Stock never saw the 25-yard score.

“They fell for it. Ross Browner was really rushing ... he didn't stay home to protect,” Stock recalled. “When you look at the film, there wasn't a lot of time. He's right there. I turned and threw and Ross Browner takes me out pretty good.

“When I got up, I saw Richard coming out of the end zone.”

But 'Bama kicker Bill Davis missed the point-after kick — the only miss of the season, according to Stock — which left the game 23-21 with 9:33 to play. Notre Dame kicked a field goal five minutes later for a 24-23 lead.

The Irish, behind a courageous Tom Clements pass out of their own end zone to Robin Weber, iced the game in the final seconds.

“Big plays, big shifts of momentum,” Stock said. “It was really disappointing. That extra point would have made it a tie game.”

A year later in the Orange Bowl, the two powers met again the Orange Bowl with the Irish winning 13-11.

Two losses by a total of three points.

Today, Stock is a resident of Naples, Fla., though he spends six months a year in Elkhart and is the CEO of MITO Corp. He'll attend the Jan. 7 BCS game with six Alabama teammates who he's remained close to over the years.

While in Florida, he's run into former ND coach Ara Parseghian at a Marcos Island golf course and the two have shared stories about 1973.

“Ara lives down there where I play ... I'd see him every so often. One time I was in the lockerroom and we sat down and talked about the game,” Stock said. “His mind was as sharp and quick as ever. He knew exactly which big plays we're talking about. It was a lot of fun.

“Ara said it best because he was such a class act. What he said was that (game in '73) was great for college football. That sums it up.”

Had Notre Dame gotten its way back in the day, Stock would have worn a shiny gold helmet instead of a Crimson jersey.

The Irish, Oklahoma and most of the Big Ten schools recruited the Elkhart High all-stater.

Eventually, Stock's choices came down to Michigan and Alabama. Initially, he would have liked to have gone to ND.

But a recruiting visit by Bryant changed everything.

“Coach Bryant took the time to come from Tuscaloosa to recruit me himself,” Stock said. “That changed my mind.

“I wanted to get away from home. Notre Dame was right next door. I kind of wanted to break away from that mold.”

Though he's teased and taunted by Irish fans when he's in Elkhart, Stock takes it all in stride.

He did then and does now.

“It's easy to do,” Stock said, “because it was such a great game.”



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