"In the two-hour meeting on Sunday morning, we have to go over movies of the previous Saturday game, listen to scouting reports on the game coming up and go over new offenses and defenses for that game. The hour and a half workout breaks down into a half hour of fundamentals, then a half hour on offense and a half hour on defense. It would be ample time, I believe, if the two-platoon system were to come back so that you could split the squad into offense and defense and spend the whole time on one phase of the game. But it is very little time, now."
George Gipp, the legendary Gipper for whom Coach Rockne later would exhort his teams to "win one," sparked Notre Dame to a 27-17 victory. The Gipper ran for 124 yards, passed for 96. Six weeks later he died of a throat infection and pneumonia.
Blaik leaned forward over the wide, neat desk and looked intently at his hands. He has something of the forensic manner of Frank Leahy, a certain orotund, old-world floweriness of speech and delivery which lends dignity to what he says.
"I had a chance to look at the practice schedule of an Ivy League school earlier this year," he said. "They don't have spring practice, of course, and we do. But in the 20 days of our spring practice and the entire practice before the season starts, I found that we actually spend some 25% less time on the field than the Ivy League school did in its preseason practice alone."
Although Blaik's rebuilding since the loss of his team in 1951 has been slow, it has been steady. This year's Army team is deeper than last year's, and the prospects for the future are good, if not great. For the first time in several years, Blaik enters a season with a proved quarterback in Dave Bourland. After the Nebraska game, Blaik was so pleased with Bourland's performance that he permitted himself a characteristically reserved outburst of enthusiasm: "Bourland has made the progress which goes with attention to detail, and this game should help him, too," he said. "Nothing succeeds like success. He has developed qualities of leadership and poise which were lacking a year ago."
In other respects, too, this is a good Army team. The line is big and tough, and the backs run very hard. Over all, the team lacks dangerous speed, but Blaik hopes to remedy this with an expanded passing attack built around the accurate passing of Bourland and occasional passing by the halfbacks. The receivers are very good. Although the team looked fairly deep in the 42-0 rout of Nebraska, this was deceptive. Actually, against strong opposition, Blaik might be in trouble if he had to rely heavily on his second unit, and he probably would not want to dip down beyond that point at all in a truly tight game. The team's offense is varied and intelligent, and Bourland makes good, opportunistic use of it. However, he will have to retain the poise he showed against Nebraska in full measure to beat Notre Dame.
Some 800 miles away in the wide farmlands of the Midwest, Blaik's Saturday adversary wrestles with similar problems in a way commensurate with his personality. Terry Brennan, possibly the youngest head coach of a major college in the United States, is an intense, handsome man who, after three years of the corrosive pressure of coaching Notre Dame, has a maturity well beyond his 29 years. On the surface, he has a quicker, warmer personality than Blaik's; beneath, he is just as precise and austere and meticulous.
1924 In their senior year, the most famous backfield of all time, Notre Dame's Four Horsemen, got their nickname from Grantland Rice, who wrote—after Notre Dame beat Army 13-7: "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again...."
So far in his relatively short lifetime, Brennan has broken even with Army on the athletic field. He played in the last three games of the old series, losing to the Glenn Davis-Doc Blanchard powerhouse of 1945, 48-0; then playing on a par with both Davis and Blanchard the next year in the memorable 0-0 tie when the national championship was at stake; and performing magnificently in 1947, as Notre Dame closed the series with its 23rd victory 27-7.
This year, Brennan desperately needs a victory over Army. After his 2-8 record of 1956, the young coach is under heavy pressure to prove himself or look for other work. To be sure, this pressure is decidedly unfair, for his coaching difficulties are certainly not of his making, but the pressure on the youngster nonetheless exists.