RECORD: 10-0 ALL-AMERICAS: LEON HART, E; TIM MARTIN, T; EMIL SITKO, HB. RUNNER-UP TO MICHIGAN IN '48, NOTRE DAME ROLLED TO COACH FRANK LEAHY'S FOURTH TITLE SEASON
LAST SATURDAY afternoon in South Bend the Notre Dame football team--rated No. 1 in the nation--played Tulane, then rated No. 4. Since Army and Oklahoma would not meet the Irish, it looked like a national championship game, and the press treated it accordingly. This was an error. Thirteen minutes after the opening gun Tulane was quivering like a troop of Boy Scouts on the Normandy beachhead, and the score was 27-0 for the Fighting Irish.
The 58,196 spectators reveled in Tulane's feeling of shell shock through an afternoon that finally ended 46-7. They saw tooth-rattling blocking and precise tackling that might well have terrified the professional Philadelphia Eagles. They saw Notre Dame backs run five to 81 yards whenever the Irish got the ball.
Notre Dame's ferocity astounded Tulane, but it need not have. At South Bend the team seems to consider victory a religious mission. The players took communion before the game, and one of the communicants, Larry Coutre, made the first three touchdowns. Even without mixing religion and sport, Notre Dame's overwhelming superiority would have won.
Proficiency in blocking and tackling is a characteristic shared by all good football teams. Notre Dame proved itself a great team by executing these fundamentals with a savage authority that went far beyond simple proficiency. Notre Dame blockers opened huge gashes in the Tulane line, which came apart as if it were unzipped at the tackles and guards. The Irish completed long, looping passes as casually as if they were putting on a demonstration for visiting sportswriters. Notre Dame's clinical competence was psychologically shattering; even when the Green Wave had the ball, it could do nothing right. In the third quarter, when Tulane halfback George Kinek caught a touchdown pass, he seemed as surprised as anyone, and a fan jeered, "Now you can open your eyes."
THE FINAL game of the 1949 season, against Southern Methodist in Dallas, surprisingly turned into a battle that almost cost the Irish the national championship. SMU, playing without '48 Heisman winner Doak Walker, was expected to be a walkover. Halfback Kyle Rote's second touchdown of the game, however, tied the score at 20 with seven minutes to go. The Irish regained the lead 27-20, driving 54 yards on 10 running plays, but left too much time on the clock. In the final minutes SMU drove back down the field and, on the last play of the game, Rote tried to pass for the tying touchdown. Linebacker Jerry Groom made a game-saving interception to give Notre Dame its third title in four years.