The Irish were
national champions. They had terrorized the college football world--well, all
of it except second-ranked Army, whose unbeaten streak now stretched through
three seasons. But Notre Dame would have one more shot at the Cadets, in South
Bend the following year. That game would be the last in a 34-year Notre
Dame-Army series, whose cancellation by West Point would become a sore point
with the Irish.
ONLY THREE Notre
Dame starters would graduate in the spring of 1947, and Leahy sounded a rare
note of optimism when he told the Chicago Sun-Times in March, "We should be
in very good shape next season." By September he was back in form:
"Army will come out here undefeated on November 8," he said. "As
for us, who knows? No telling how many games we'll have lost."
forecasters, unfazed by the pessimism, were saying that this Irish squad might
be the greatest collegiate team ever assembled. "Intercollegiate football
will be divided into two groups in 1947, Notre Dame and The Rest," Tom
Siler wrote in Pic Magazine. "The best games will be the intrasquad
scrimmages at South Bend."
When the Eastern
sportswriters visited South Bend in the preseason, the first thing Leahy
complained about was a lack of size and speed in his backfield. "Instead of
halfbacks, we have nine small fullbacks," he said. How about Terry Brennan,
a gifted, versatile back who would often line up as a flanker and had led the
Irish in scoring and receiving in '46?
alone," Leahy said. "He hasn't the speed or physique of a great
Then what about
Sitko? Now there was a guy who could fly. "For 50 yards," Leahy
replied. "After that, his legs tighten up and tacklers get him from
"He ran well
in one game."
And so on, right
down to Leahy's announcement that Zalejski would be lost because of a knee
injury. "A terrible blow," the coach said. Terrible. Only 15 backs
The start of the
season revealed a new wrinkle in the offense. The Irish were opening things up.
They were throwing the ball: 204 yards in a 40-6 win over Pitt, 184 in a 22-7
victory over Purdue, two teams that had loaded up to stop Notre Dame's fearsome
array of runners. The Boilermakers' seven-man line held the Irish backs to 89
yards. That simply had to be addressed. The defense was not a problem. It never