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Dan Devine entered his third year as head coach, coming off of a 9-3 season in 1976 that culminated in a Gator Bowl win over Penn State . Devine returned a highly touted defense, featuring 1976 Outland Trophy winner Ross Browner, defensive end Willie Fry, and All-American linebacker Bob Golic. On offense, quarterback Joe Montana earned the starting job and led an offense that included running backs Jerome Heavens and Vagas Ferguson and All-American tight end Ken MacAfee. Montana, earned a reputation as "the comeback kid", had two come from behind victories in the fourth quarter, against Purdue and Clemson, down 17 and 10 respectively. After a surprising loss to unranked Ole Miss, patience among the fans was running thin, who considered Devine's previous 8-3 and 9-3 seasons as lackluster compared to the team success under Devine's predecessor, Ara Parseghian. The Irish rebounded to win their remaining games, including a 49-19 rout of USC in the now famous "Green Jersey Game." The Irish earned a berth in the Cotton Bowl Classic, where they defeated No. 1 and unbeaten Texas by a score of 38-10 to capture Notre Dame's tenth national title. The Irish leaped four spots in the polls after the Cotton Bowl Classic victory to claim the consensus title.