- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
When Notre Dame and Army met late in the 1926 season, both were undefeated. In the first half, Army contained Notre Dame by dropping its tackles off the line to defend against Old 51. In the second half, when Irish Right End John Wallace reported that Army's left tackle, a Texan named Mortimer (Bud) Sprague, had moved back up on the line, the next play Quarterback Red Edwards called was Old 51 to the right. That year Christy Flanagan, also a Texan, was the back who carried the ball on that play. Reviewing the game, sportswriter Tim Cohane reported, "That one play was enough. It was a perfect play. After a scoreless first half, Christy Flanagan, Notre Dame's left halfback, broke off Army's left tackle and ran 63 yards for a touchdown. The blocking, both in the line and downfield, eradicated every potential Cadet tackler, so that Christy went his way without so much as a finger being laid on him." Final score: Notre Dame 7, Army 0.
In the book We Remember Rockne , Flanagan recalls that some years later when he was coaching at the Naval Academy, a limousine drove up to the practice field and out stepped Bud Sprague. After graduating as an All-America, Sprague had married a Congressman's daughter and was on his way up the military ladder. Flanagan says, "I went back to the scrimmage and told the quarterback, 'Listen, if you don't mind, run O1' 51 to the right, will ya?' I then turned and shouted to Bud to watch. Well, you should have seen his expression. The instant the formation started. Bud knew what it was.... 'You ol' rascal you!' he cried. 'You never will forget, will you.' "
When Notre Dame and Army met at Soldier Field in Chicago late in the 1930 season, again they were both undefeated. It was a wretched day; icy rain fell on a fog-shrouded field that was partly frozen and mostly mush. It figured to be a sellout of 115,000, but there were 15,000 no-shows. Army punted 20 times, Notre Dame 14. Army completed one of three passes for no gain, Notre Dame one of eight for three yards. Army made three first downs, Notre Dame five. Army gained 63 yards on the ground, Notre Dame 188, most of it with Old 51.
Kurth believes the Irish used only five running plays, Old 51 at least 15 times. Carideo, who called most of the plays, believes Kurth's estimate is conservative. Whatever the count, with only five minutes to go, Old 51 was the difference. In his game story, Robert Kelley of The New York Times wrote, "For one play Marchmont Schwartz, Notre Dame's left halfback, found the stage completely arranged for him, and he ran 54 yards to a touchdown over turf that was as slippery as an ice rink.... Schwartz went off tackle. It was the perfect play toward which Notre Dame aims through all its games." Final score: Notre Dame 7, Army 6.
To succeed with a play as shopworn as Old 51, a coach needs 11 good men. "Football is not and should not be a game for the strong and stupid," Rockne observed. "It should be a game for the smart, the swift, the brave and the clever boy." In his theatrical moments away from the game, Rockne tolerated all sorts of entrepreneurs and toadies, but when it came to football, he was suspicious, particularly of eager alumni who claimed they had just met Notre Dame's next starting tackle in the person of a neighborhood newsboy. "A coach with such keen sight would be more of a marvel than any player," said Rockne. "The only man who can pick men by simply looking at them is a hotel night clerk, who is suspicious by nature of men without baggage."
In the first two decades of this century, before recruiting and eligibility rules became stringent, there was an amicable exchange of players between South Bend and the ivied East. Charles Crowley, who was later to become coach of Columbia, played for Notre Dame after playing for Harvard. Robert (Pete) Vaughan, the estimable Wabash coach, played for Notre Dame before playing for Princeton.
But the East was not the only field Notre Dame recruiters plowed. Kurth was recruited from within a stone's throw of the admissions office of the University of Wisconsin. As a high-schooler in Madison, he had been All-City for three years. He played freshman football at Wisconsin, but then quit school, disenchanted by a chemistry professor who openly admitted downgrading jocks in his private war against athletic overemphasis. A year and a half later, as Kurth, who was now planning to finish college without playing football, was on his way to reregister at Wisconsin, he was hailed by Badger Assistant Coach Tom Lieb, who had played for Rockne in '21 and '22. Three days later Kurth had a scholarship at Notre Dame.
Take the case of Schwartz, an All-America halfback who still ranks as one of Notre Dame's top ground-gainers. He learned his football in Bay St. Louis, Miss., at St. Stanislaus, a tiny parochial school that many years later produced Felix (Doc) Blanchard. Out of several dozen offers from schools as far away as Dartmouth, Schwartz accepted one from Loyola of New Orleans that was loaded with fringe benefits. A shipping tycoon named Blaise D'Antoni had determined that Loyola should become sort of a Notre Dame du Bayou. To persuade Schwartz to go to Loyola, D'Antoni gave him a 10-day cruise to Havana and Honduras, promised him train fare home on weekends and free theater tickets and two suits of clothes a year, as well as room, tuition and board all the way through law school. On top of that, Schwartz would be given a law clerk's job when his studies were done. "We spent an awful lot of time on the football field," Schwartz recalls. "Then I found out that there were about 10 players on the squad who were taking only a one-hour course at night and were still eligible.... I wanted to leave after two weeks."
Compared to the manner in which he had been wooed by Loyola, Schwartz' contact with Notre Dame had been scant indeed. There was no written promise of even free board or tuition; indeed, all he heard from the Irish was word passed along by an undergraduate that Rockne wanted him. In the winter of Schwartz' one year in New Orleans, Rockne—apparently in a tampering mood—visited Loyola's highly regarded coach, Clark Shaughnessy. Schwartz recalls that the Loyola squad was assembled to meet the great visitor, and when Rockne shook Schwartz' hand, he stared at him intently and said, "Why didn't you show up last fall? You're all set at Notre Dame. I'll see you next fall."