RECORD: 8-0-1 ALL-AMERICAS: GEORGE CONNOR, TACKLE; JOHN LUJACK, QB. LOADED WITH TALENTED EX-SERVICEMEN, NOTE DAME ROLLED OVER EVERYONE BUT ARMY (A 0-0 TIE)
FRANK LEAHY, Notre Dame's football coach, began the 1946 season by overcoming a serious handicap: A single pair of eyes, operating at ground level, could not possibly watch the whole Notre Dame processing plant. So Leahy built a tower 30 feet high in the middle of Notre Dame's three-gridiron practice field. From the tower he looks down on an operation that is as carefully calculated, as extremely complicated, as the Studebaker assembly line in nearby South Bend.
Leahy's football factory is meeting its production quotas and then some--nine touchdowns in the first two games--but the Man in the Tower is the kind of guy who always aims to do better. At one end of the field, the tackle coach is instructing 11 tackles in the refinements of "forearm shivers." At the other end, 12 brutish guards are doing "duck walks." Nine T-formation quarterbacks, never far from the centers, are working on a half-dozen different types of pivot. On two of the gridirons, squads vaguely referred to as "the reserves" are running through plays.
From where he stands, a lot of things look awful to Big Boss Leahy. "If I only had a breakaway back," he mourns. Suddenly ex-GI halfback Bob Livingstone, a star in 1942, swivel-hips his way past three tacklers before being slammed to earth 40 yards downfield. "See," says Funless Frank bitterly, "he didn't go all the way."
Such talk does not fool Notre Dame's millions of subway-circuit alumni. Every butcher boy, beer salesman and politician in the U.S. knows that Notre Dame is loaded. The Swistowiczes, Skoglunds, Kosikowskis and Kellys include one fancy-stepping freshman and 53 ex-servicemen. The line bristles with the likes of ex-gob Zygmont Czarobski, a 213-pound bone-crusher tackle, and 205-pound end Jim Martin, a husky ex-Marine. And Notre Dame has at least one express-train halfback up its sleeve in squat, slippery Emil Sitko.
The Irish were good enough to breeze by rugged speedy Illinois, 26-6, in their opening game. The offense, more sound than spectacular, was expertly directed by quarterback Johnny Lujack. The defense, especially designed to stop the Illini's flashy Buddy Young, featured Lujack, one of the surest tacklers in college football. Young gained 36 yards. Next came the one soft touch on the nine-game schedule. Score: Notre Dame 33, Pittsburgh 0. That left seven to go, but the one that really matters is Army. West Point's '44 and '45 unbeatables plastered the Irish with two humiliating beatings, 59-0 and 48-0. Hence this year's Notre Dame dedication to a holy crusade: Beat Army on Nov. 9.
Besides perfectly conditioned beef and brawn, Leahy can count on help from the far sidelines--from nuns whose radio-side prayers go something like this: "God's will be done ... but if it doesn't make any difference, let Notre Dame win." Says Leahy, a realist, "The prayers work better when the players are big."