But Doyle Jennings, a stubby, compact starting tackle, summed up the dressing-room feeling best. "It's just like death," he said sorrowfully.
Across the stadium, Terry Brennan sat on a table in the hot, steamy Notre Dame dressing room and dragged deeply on a cigaret. A wide grin was a permanent fixture on a face as Irish as Paddy's pig. "It feels good to beat a good team," he said. "It makes it more satisfying. Today was the first time this season the team played 60 minutes of good football. It feels good."
He puffed on his cigaret again.
"All in all, we just played like hell for 60 minutes," he said, "even if we did play over our heads."
At the airport two hours later, the grin was still firmly stuck on Brennan's face. As the Irish players left chartered buses to board an airliner back to South Bend, Brennan said, "I'm just beginning to realize what's happened. It's just beginning to soak in. This is the highest point of my coaching career. I'm still dazed. The bigness of it is overwhelming. I'm still walking on air."
When the DC-6B landed in South Bend at 9:25 that night, some 3,000 people milled around the plane, cheering the team and keeping the battered players on board for 20 minutes. First off the plane were Al Ecuyer, Dick Prendergast and Bronko Nagurski, in order, and the crowd greeted them with successively louder cheers. Finally ushered into buses, the team reached the Notre Dame campus to be greeted by 4,000 students, the Notre Dame band, waving torches, and a bellowing singing of the Notre Dame Victory March. A big sign, illuminated by torches, read, "Sixty minutes of fight tops Sooners' might." The buses made the final half mile to the campus through packed-solid crowds, chanting, "Here come the Irish, here come the Irish." As the crowd grew, the chant changed into the Irish war hymn of the week, "Happy birthday, Oklahoma, happy birthday to you."
It was 11:30 Saturday night before Brennan got a chance to eat. By Sunday morning he had unwound enough to talk calmly, and he started preparation for Notre Dame's game Saturday with Iowa.
"I didn't sleep much last night," he said. "I was still unwinding and still playing the game over. It's wonderful. The big thing was that we had 11 boys out there who just wouldn't be beat. It wasn't anything else. It was just that they wouldn't be beat. This was a great win. I think it will make Notre Dame a better team. This will give the boys more confidence."
He was quiet a moment.
"You know, Pietrosante had a bad leg before the game," he said. "I checked with him on it this morning. I asked him how his legs were and he said, 'Coach, they're both dead. I can't even feel them. Monday morning I'm going to dive into the whirlpool head-first and stay there. But I sure do feel good.' You never would have guessed his legs bothered him during the game, though, would you?"