RECORD: 9-0 ALL-AMERICAS: FRANK CARIDEO, QB; JACK CANNON, G. NOTRE DAME WON THE FIRST OF TWO STRAIGHT TITLES DESPITE PLAYING EVERY GAME ON THE ROAD
BORN IN Norway, Knute Rockne was Irish only by marriage, a result of his blessed union with Notre Dame, which began in 1910 when he arrived as a player and continued in '18 when a 30-year-old Rockne took over as the Irish head football coach. By 1929 Rockne was already the most dominating sports figure of his time, having led Notre Dame to a national championship in '24 and elevating himself into motivational lore in '28 with his famed "win one for the Gipper" speech.
After suffering through a four-loss season in 1928, Rockne put his reputation on the line the following year by putting together a schedule difficult not only because it featured powerhouses USC, Drake and '28 national champion Georgia Tech, as well as regular opponents Army and Navy, but also because Notre Dame Stadium was still a year away from completion, leaving the Irish no choice but to play every game on the road.
Just a week into the season the Irish faced yet another difficulty when Rockne was diagnosed with a life-threatening case of phlebitis. The condition left Rockne bedridden and unable to travel to Baltimore for the showdown with Navy. Still, on the morning of the game he spoke to every man on the Notre Dame roster by telephone, offering advice, encouragement and last-minute strategy. The Irish responded with a 14-7 win.
Rockne was on the sideline for just three games in 1929, leaving assistant coach Tom Leib to run the team. Regardless of who was leading them, the '29 Irish were a force to be reckoned with. They were the toughest team, playing the toughest schedule in front of the biggest crowds, and they were boasting a new stable of Horsemen: quarterback Frank Carideo (a two-time All-America), halfbacks John Elder and Marty Brill and fullback Larry Mullins. Behind the talented quartet Notre Dame overpowered opponents, outscoring the competition 145-38.
Following back-to-back victories over Georgia Tech (26-6) and Drake (19-7), top-ranked Notre Dame headed to Chicago's Soldier Field for a showdown with Southern California on Nov. 16 in front of a crowd of 112,912. After battling the Trojans to a 6-6 halftime tie, the Irish needed inspiration. Even though he was in great pain, Rockne was wheeled into the locker room, where he delivered an impassioned speech. His effort was not in vain as fullback Joe Savoldi's fourth-quarter touchdown run gave the Irish a 13-12 lead, which proved to be the difference.
Their toughest test behind them, Notre Dame rolled to victories over Northwestern and Army in the next two weeks and won a second national title for the coach who was Norwegian by birth but Irish through and through.