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
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.
everything Ara adds up to still seems wrong for Notre Dame--a Protestant and a
graduate of another school ( Miami of Ohio)--everything he is and says and does
is perfect. Everything.
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.
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.