The move was suggested by ABC, which said it would love to televise Notre Dame's opener at Boston College but on the Monday night following the scheduled Saturday date. That would mean the Irish would only have four days of rest before playing at Purdue, always a major headache for the Irish. O.K., said the South Bend brass, with new Head Coach Dan Devine concurring. "It's going to make it tough on us," says Devine, "but we need the money for some of our programs."
Even in one of Notre Dame's better years, playing two games in five days would be tough—and there is nothing to indicate that this will be one of the better years. For openers, in Devine's first season after returning from the NFL, everyone will need time to adjust to his system. Fortunately, or unfortunately, there are not too many offensive people left to make the adjustment, Guard Al Wujciak being the only returning starter.
Defensively, the Irish are better manned, having lost only five veterans while regaining Defensive Ends Willie Fry and Ross Browner and Safety Luther Bradley. That trio comes back after a year's suspension. As freshmen, Browner and Bradley both started for the 1973 national championship team. Fry would have been a starter last year.
The return of Fry and Browner has allowed Devine to shift defensive captain Jim Stock from end to linebacker, where Notre Dame has to replace two men. In addition, big Steve Niehaus will shift from end to tackle, another position left vacant by graduation.
While inexperienced offensively, the Irish expect to score a lot of points with a corps of their customary battering-ram backs. "In fact," says one of Devine's aides, "when you look back at the basic talent—the lack of quickness and speed, for example—you have to wonder just how Notre Dame was so consistently good. Ara Parseghian had a great system. He was a tough coach to play against."
"There is a tradition of winning here," says Devine. "That may not seem like an important factor, but I think it is. You don't go around doing a lot of hollering when you join a successful program. Nothing around here needed much of a change."
The Irish could use a quarterback, however. Frank Allocco is the most experienced, but he has played only 44 minutes. He is expected to share duties with Rick Slager, who is better known for his tennis. The first five days of the season could make the rest of it seem endless.
The quarterback is a stumpy junior, with an arm that scares no one. The defense gave up 185 points in 12 games last season, and even that not-so-sterling group has been decimated by graduation. Only five starting defenders return, and things looked even bleaker when the man expected to be the best of them missed all of spring practice with a bum knee. The talent at most positions is so thin the pregame prayer will be an appeal to St. Jude.
Still, Houston should do well. First, there is the schedule, which is softer than a one-minute egg. The Cougars play everybody but Union College, and they only passed up the Dutchmen because nobody in Texas could spell Schenectady. Next season the Cougars join the Southwest Conference, where they've wanted to be for years, and meanwhile they've had to take what they could get. It's not their fault that the biggies were always out to lunch when they called to ask for a shoot-out.