Fresh off the exhilirating Cotton Bowl win over Texas, the Irish were ebullient about 1971, even without Theisman. Gatewood probably had the abiity to make any QB successful. After 1965 Ara had offered that quarterback and quarterback depth would no longer be a problem. There were some intriguing QB prospects in the pipeline. Bill Etter of "Etter Keeper" fame had some support. There were two Pennsylvanians, Pat Steenberge and Cliff Brown, who were brimming with potential.
January 23, 1971. Unbeaten UCLA, winner of four NCAA tourneys in a row, invaded the Convo. It was a bridge too far. This was to be Austin Carr's last shot at UCLA and he and his buddies etched a masterpiece. Carr exploded for 46 points, causing even John Wooden to shake his head. Wooden had local ties as he had coached at South Bend Central before he bagan his climb to basketball Valhalla. There is conjecture that Wooden and Leahy may have had a confab or two, but this is not verifed. The Irish won 89-81. That snapped a 19 game win streak for the Bruins. It would be some time before UCLA would lose another basketball game [that season], but that is a story unto itself...... Also in January, Idi Amin took over Uganda, and Archie Bunker and "All in the Family" debuted on television. Both parties denied that the events were coordinated.
In February, a new stock market indes was introduced. It was called "NASDAQ" What did Simeon say to Joseph and Mary "this child is set for the rise and fall of many?"
In March Joe Frazier beat "I got no quarrel with them Congs" Ali, back from exile, in the Garden. They would fight again.
The Irish opened spring practice, and the QB picture remained muddled and unsatisfying (deja vu, anyone?") The defense was suffocating. Patulski, Kadish, Marx, Zikas and Swendsen were reputed to be the country's best DL, and they sure looked like it in the Spring. You knew the QBs would not face a better DL in the season.
Pop music had hit a dry patch after the 60's. John Denver, Dawn, and both Donny Osmond and the Osmonds had top 10 hits.
In August, 3,000 folks fled from Belfast and Derry to the Republic of Ireland. "The Troubles." Irish hearts bled.
Notre Dame opened with a rousing 50-7 thrashing of Northwestern in South Bend, The offensive concerns seemed to have been unwarranted. Or not. The Irish went to the banks of the Wabash, and in a pelting rainstorm squeaked past Purdue on a late two point conversion. Ok, let's write that one off to the rain. The Irish then put up another defensive gem in a 14-2 win over Michigan State in South Bend, before shutting out Miami, 17-0 in Little Havana and North Carolina, 17-0 in South Bend.
The grumbling about Brown (arising from both football and non-football reasons) were louder. Heck, that kid on the freshman squad (Tom Clements) looked better. Too bad fresmen are not eligible, yet. But the defense had been truly epic, having given up only 16 points in five games.
Southern Cal was next, and the offensive malaise continued in what may have been the most feckless Notre Dame-SC game over. Even the sideline fight was insipid and the Irish fell to SC 28-14 and to 5-1. The Irish O actually woke up the next few weeks, beating Navy 21-0, Pittsburg 56-7 and Tulane 21-7. The Irish D had given up 58 points, less than a touchdown a game. Notre Dame's final game was in the Eye of the Tiger, in Baton Rouge. LSU and Bert Jones were ready. The Irish were never in it that night in the howling cavern, and LSU won 28-8. It may have been the most unsatisying 8-2 year ever. And there was no bowl game. But there would always be next year. Tom Clements would be eligible, and folds were talking about this incoming tackle from Moeller, name of Niehaus....