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He sighed and said, "It's awfully scary. Do you know that in his first four games Hanratty threw for more yards than George Gipp, Harry Stuhldreher, Marchy Schwartz, Bill Shakespeare, Johnny Lujack, Frank Tripucka and Daryle Lamonica did in their best seasons? Do you realize that in his first two games, Seymour caught more passes for more yardage than Leon Hart did the year he won the Heisman Trophy?"
Roger Valdiserri sighed. The Baby Bombers, his original thought, is not bad, considering that Granny, Damon, Ring, Westbrook, Heywood and all the gang managed to use up practically everything else palatable long before Roger's time and duty. The Baby Bombers may stick.
Notre Dame fans feast on all of their lore, good or bad, and part of the fun that Hanratty and Seymour are creating comes from relishing all of the old tales about all of the people who came before coach Ara Parseghian and his Baby Bombers. There have been several box formations of them, but for Notre Dame insiders, whether they spew forth the memories in bars or restaurants, in homes or offices, the person who dominates their conversations is Frank Leahy, the man who really drew open the curtains for the Era of Ara.
For one thing, Ara Parseghian is a brilliant offensive coach, as he proved at Northwestern. He beat teams he should not have beaten, and with fewer athletes. For another thing, Ara Parseghian is smart enough to know you must have a loyal, hardworking staff and, in his particular case, a defensive specialist. He has such a staff, and it features defensive coach John Ray, whose units set six NCAA defensive records at John Carroll in 1962.
Like Parseghian himself, Ray is a fiery, persuasive, resonant man who, from the beginning in the near-perfect year of 1964, has constructed a distinctive spirit in the defense equal to that in Ara's spicy offensive platoons. Though Ray dislikes seeing it put quite this way, Notre Dame has, in effect, two head coaches, one for offense and one for defense, both of them highly accomplished, as the record indicates. (In the first six games of the 1966 season Notre Dame scored 197 points and allowed only 28, but, of course, the team's biggest test, Michigan State, is yet to come [page 36].) "It's Ara's team," Ray argues, honestly. But Parseghian counters with equal kindness. "John deserves full credit for our defense," he says.
Parseghian is a winner, and he is as generous with his assistants as possible. But the surface of the man is what Notre Dame followers like the best, the things they can see and hear. Take Ara at a Friday-night pregame rally in the gymnasium, which is as close as free men can come to a prison riot for better food and bedding. Or Ara leaping around on the sideline during a game, hugging players, shouting instructions and encouragement. Or Ara at the end of a day's practice, building his squad lecture to a climax, combining, one is told, the passion of Rockne with the dedication of Leahy.
For all of this intensity, the Irish workouts may be fun and certainly are not agony sessions. Every successful team goes about things differently, so you can't say whether Parseghian's procedures are the best. But there is more chatter, more hustling, more continuously earnest activity on the part of everybody than at a great variety of other campuses.
Up on Ara Parseghian's end of the grass the Baby Bombers are at work. This is mid-October, before Seymour injured his ankle against Oklahoma. Over and over again, Hanratty slings the bomb and Seymour gets there. A flat pass, a screen, a hook, then the deep one again--and Seymour has it. The ball doesn't seem to touch the ground for an interminable number of plays.
Notre Dame has seen a lot of passing combinations through the years: George Gipp to Eddie Anderson, Harry Stuhldreher to Don Miller, Angelo Bertelli to John Yonakor, Johnny Lujack to Terry Brennan, Bob Williams to Leon Hart and then to Jim Mutscheller, Ralph Guglielmi to Joe Heap, Paul Hornung to Jim Morse, and Johnny Huarte to Jack Snow. Forget them. Nobody ever threw a football to anybody until the Baby Bombers found each other.