Notre Dame believes in beginning with a tough opponent. A team gets up faster if the first game is going to be hard: with everyone else pointing for it all season long, Notre Dame has to get up right away. Texas, this year's opener, looked even tougher than normal. Ranked fourth in the nation in last week's football poll, Texas is the pick for the Southwest Conference championship. And Notre Dame's new coach, 26-year-old Terry Brennan, who had handled only high school and freshman elevens, faced his first varsity game. To make it worse, Texas had ruined Elmer Layden's debut as coach and handed Notre Dame its last opening-game defeat, 7-6 in 1934.
Terry got his team up so fast that Texas lost 21-0, failing to score for the first time in 77 games. In the best Rockne-Leahy tradition, Notre Dame took command in the pinches, showed complete mastery of the fundamentals, grabbed three Texas fumbles, intercepted four passes, and stopped the Longhorns every time they threatened. A highly partisan crowd of 57,594, gleeful on a golden afternoon, could say: "The king is dead, long live the king." No one in the throng was happier than the late king himself, Frank Leahy, who watched from the stands.
Last year Leahy publicly doubted if Notre Dame would get a first down all season. Last spring Brennan, who has little pessimism and a poise almost indecent for his age, said calmly: "I think we'll do all right." In spring and fall practice alike, Brennan never raised his voice. But standing in the backfield throughout every scrimmage, he also never failed to tell in detail just how each play could have been better.
In the first two minutes of the game, Texas went 62 yards in four plays to the seven. Then Frank Varrichione recovered Charley Brewer's fumble on the eleven. Texas did not again come close until the last play of the half, when Ralph Guglielmi intercepted Brewer's long pass on the goal line. Texas nearly scored late in the third period, but Jack Lee recovered Don Maroney's fumble on the six. So, for the first time since their 1946 game with Texas Christian, the Longhorns were left scoreless.
Quarterback Guglielmi, just six years younger than Brennan and a frequent selection for All-America last year, had an All-America day. He passed to Dan Shannon for the first touchdown, having opened the gates for it by intercepting a pass and sprinting 41 yards down the side line. He scored the other two touchdowns himself, after Notre Dame marches of 79 and 56 yards, both on the quarterback option play. Each time Guglielmi ran laterally to the left, just behind the line, until he saw an opening, inside left tackle, then slanted across the goal. The Texas line, sparked by Tackle Buck Lansford and End Howard Moon, almost matched the Notre Dame forwards, led by Guard Ray Lemek and Tackles Varrichione and Sam Palumbo and Center Dick Szymanski. The Texas backs were outclassed, though Left Half Delano Womack managed to gain 49 yards in seven tries. Texas made 14 first downs to 16, but the Irish controlled the ball.
Nothing in Notre Dame's whole performance was more quietly impressive than the way it ended. Instead of hoisting Guglielmi or Brennan to their shoulders, the players just ran off the field. Brennan walked impassively behind, looking as if he were as used to winning as Notre Dame.