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All last week as Notre Dame prepared to settle a score with Purdue, Ara Parseghian was careful to speak softly when in the vicinity of Terry Hanratty. "I want to be casual, to be relaxed," Parseghian explained. "I don't want to get him nervous like me." It was not easy, because Parseghian is the Notre Dame football coach and he is also a chatty fellow with impressible nerve endings. As he talked he had the popeyed look of a man who was holding his breath.
Hanratty is Notre Dame's new quarterback. His uniform number is 5, which used to be the number of Paul Hornung, the famous swinger. In the 11 years since Hornung, Notre Dame has not had an outstanding sophomore quarterback. Hanratty is from Butler, Pa. Butler is 20 miles up the pike from Beaver Falls, Pa., which is Joe Willie Namath's home town. Joe Willie is another outstanding swinger. Hanratty used to watch Namath play high school football and always wanted to grow up to pass just like him.
Compared to swingers like Hornung and Namath, Terrence Hugh Hanratty is stationary. Terry Hugh is 18 years old. He has soft eyes and sunken cheeks and a reputation for being a lamb. When he is sitting down he has a tentative look about him, as if you could remove his chair without altering his position.
But Notre Dame picks up the tab for Hanratty's education not to have him sit down or to swing but to have him stand up and throw footballs. In the final days of what the guard at the Notre Dame gate called "superclosed" practices for Purdue, Ara Parseghian could not believe the way Terry Hanratty was throwing the football. What was more, he could not believe the way another sophomore, James Patrick Seymour, split end, Berkley Mich., age 19, was catching the football. The way Parseghian told it, the two were enough to give teenagers a good name.
The thing was, last year Notre Dame had a rosewater passing attack to go with its strong running, and on more than a few occasions the opposition had found out what Parseghian knew to be true. "On third down nine we were in jail," he said.
Hanratty and Seymour presented Parseghian with the chance to reestablish the kind of offense he had in 1964, when John Huarte was throwing touchdown passes to Jack Snow. There was a snag, though. Hanratty and Seymour had never played a game for Notre Dame, not even as freshmen, because the Irish do not play a freshman schedule. That meant that in the match-up of quarterbacks with Purdue, it would be rookie Hanratty against All-America Bob Griese, a brilliant performer who had started 22 straight games and had never once looked anything less than terrifying. The job he did on Notre Dame last year—19 of 22 passes for 283 yards, and the winning touchdown in the final seconds of a 25-21 game—was remembered with pain around South Bend.
It was doubtful, therefore, that the Notre Dame defense would be anywhere but up for the game. "The coaches do not have to say a thing to get us ready for Griese," said Tackle Pete Duranko. The next big job, then, was to keep Hanratty calm, and of course there was no way to do that—big opening game, big rivalry, national television. Pressure, pressure, pressure.
Finally, there was that night-before concession Notre Dame makes to hysterics, the pep rally. Since Parseghian came to launch what is advertised on lapel pins as THE NEW ARA [sic] IN NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL, Notre Dame pep rallies have become happenings. Parseghian clears his throat and 6,000 people cheer. Human pyramids are built and often collapse spectacularly, as the last man up rips open his shirt to reveal a huge green tattoo on his chest: IRISH. They shout, "Ara, Ara, Ara," and when Ara gets up to talk they cheer every fragmentary sentence:
"We're going to—"