Are you old enough to remember Fox's Movietone newsreels of 1946 and '47? Seems like every week there was another thrilling punt return by McGee and the familiar narration: "There he goes again, folks. Another one for little Coy McGee." He was a jackrabbit runner from Longview, Texas, whose weight fluctuated between 146 and 158 pounds. "His legs would go every which way," says Terry Brennan, the Irish starting halfback in '46. "In the open field he was almost impossible to tackle."
McGee made the 36-man traveling squad for the next game, at Iowa—a team of which Leahy was "scared to death." Someone showed him a pool card. The Irish were favored by 19. "It's a typographical error," Leahy said.
McGee turned in a few nifty runs in the 41-1) slaughter, but he didn't even make the traveling squad for the next game, a 28-0 victory over Navy. It was simply too crowded. "Guys killed themselves to make the traveling squad," Fischer says. "One day years later I asked Bill Earley, 'Why did we always have that two-hour scrimmage on Thursday in full pads, with only the first team exempt?' He said, 'The coaching staff would spend hours and hours trying to select the traveling squad. The idea of the Thursday scrimmage was to see who got hurt. That would help us select the squad.' "
Unbeaten Army was coming up, at Yankee Stadium. On the Saturday morning of the game a motorist drove around the stadium with a sign offering a $3.30 end zone ticket for $200. He sold it. "My girlfriend in Cleveland called and said she needed two tickets, probably for her and some other guy," Martin says. "So I sold her two for 50 bucks apiece. I made her pay. I never saw her again. Can't be lucky all the time."
It was buttoned-up football, close to the vest—too close, some Notre Dame players would say years later. The Irish had been a two-unit team all season, but now Leahy went with his firsts. "Let's face it. He just chickened out," Martin says. "They had a great first unit, but we could have worn them down with our squad. Leahy could have put Ratterman in and opened things up."
Lujack had been iffy until game time with a sprained ankle. Although the Irish outgained Army by 35 yards, his passing was way off. He made the defensive play of the game, though, bringing down Blanchard in the third quarter with an ankle-high tackle in the open field. Notre Dame mounted the most serious threat of the game, getting a first down on the Army 12 in the second quarter. But Billy Gompers was stopped on fourth-and-one at the three. "I told Lujack, 'Hell, you should have given me the ball," John Panelli says. "That was the end zone where my parents were sitting. I'd have scored."
The amazing thing about the newspaper accounts of the scoreless tie was that no one suggested that Notre Dame should have kicked a field goal. "Uh-uh, not Leahy's style," Lujack says. "It would have been an admission of defeat." Field goals were still in their infancy at South Bend. The Irish kicked none in '46, two in '47. In 1945 they were still drop-kicking their extra points, and Stan Krivak missed 13 of them.
"Look, the game ended zero-zero, and people are still talking about it," Lujack says. "If it had ended 7-0, would they still talk about it?"
The rest of the season was anticlimactic. The only unknown each week was which Notre Dame player would break loose. Emil Sitko romped for 107 yards on 15 carries in a 27-0 victory over Northwestern. Gompers (10 carries for 103 yards) and former South Bend high school star Ernie Zalejski (seven for 101) ran wild in the 41-0 annihilation of Tulane in New Orleans. After that game still other players went wild, notably All-America right tackle Zygmont Peter (Ziggy) Czarobski.
"A few of us had celebrated at the Old Absinthe House," Fischer says, "and we finally got to the train and took over the club car. Ziggy was leading the party. Ziggy led all the parties." To this day, when the old players get together, the night is called a Ziggy. Everybody has a Ziggy story. At the Notre Dame sports publicity office they still have the questionnaire he filled out as an incoming student. Church preference? "Red brick." Hobbies? "Plant collecting, bee hunting, surf-riding [Ziggy came from the South Side of Chicago], dancing."