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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish VS Duke Blue Devils 1966

The Football Season: Fantasy and Reality

Duke v Notre Dame
SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 24: Durham Smythe #80 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass in front of DeVon Edwards #27 of the Duke Blue Devils during a game at Notre Dame Stadium on September 24, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana. Duke defeated Notre Dame 38-35.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

How in the world are we already at our ninth game? Man this football season is flying by much too fast. But here we are, game nine, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel to North Carolina to face the Duke Blue Devils. Notre Dame and Duke have played each other on the gridiron five times. Notre Dame has won three and Duke has one two:

September 24, 2016: Duke 38 - Notre Dame 35
November 17, 2007: Duke 7 - Notre Dame 28
November 12, 1966: Duke 0 - Notre Dame 64
December 2, 1961: Duke 37 - Notre Dame 13
October 18, 1958: Duke 7 - Notre Dame 9

Here are some visual stats from

When deciding which game to “throwback” to today, it wasn’t too hard. No one wants to look at 2007 (2-9), or 2016 (4-8) ... so we’ll take a look at a happy season, 1966. When Duke came to Notre Dame in 1966, to say they were outmanned is quite the understatement of the decade. Not only did Notre Dame shut out Duke, 64-0; sixty-four Notre Dame players got in on the action that day.

Nick Eddy, the senior Notre Dame halfback, got the game off to an explosive start, as he raced 77-yards down the field on the second play of the game. This would be what began a 43-point first half for Notre Dame. Six times the Fighting Irish would cross the goal-line in the first 30 minutes of the game. This sufficient lead would allow Coach Ara Parseghian to give his second and third string players playing time that day. This 64-0 win over Duke was also the widest margin over an opponent since ND beat Dartmouth by 64-0 in 1944.

If you look at the stats, Duke and Notre Dame almost had the same number of first downs, Duke with 15 first downs and Notre Dame with 17. However, the difference becomes apparent when you look at the yards on offense. Notre Dame racked up 425 yards of offense to the Blue Devils 185. And the Irish played no first string players in the second half. 29 of the 64 Notre Dame players who got playing time that day were seniors competing for the last time at home. The 12 seniors who were starters would include seven on offense: Don emitter, Tom Regner, Paul Seller, George Goeddeke, Dick Swatland, Nick Eddy and Larry Conjar. And on the defense, Alan Page, Pete Duranko, Tom Rhoads, Jim Lynch, and John Horney. Reserves who played for the final time at home included Tim Wengierski, Pete Lamantia, Dave Zurowski, Bob Hagerty, Jim Kelly, Hugh O’Malley and kickers Jim Ryan and Joe Azzaro. Linemen indude Fred Schnurr, Joe Marsico, Tim Gorman, Rocco Schiralli, Gerald Kelly, John Lium, Vic Patemostro, Leo Collins, Allen Sack, Ron Jeziorski and Harry Alexander.

While doing research for this throwback, I flipped through the 1966 Scholastic Football Review. I absolutely love reading through the old Scholastics. Especially the ones from the 1960’s (mostly because that is when my dad was there). In the beginning of the magazine, there was a piece written by Father Hesburgh, that I’d like to share with you all, if you’ll oblige me.

The Football Season: Fantasy and Reality

By Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh

“Another football season has passed, another great and even fantastic one, thanks to Ara Parseghian, his staff, and his stalwart warriors who practiced hard, played hard against the best, and solidified a proud Notre Dame tradition of doing everything with style, spirit, and excellence. All of you helped too, and share the pride of many challenges well met. A football season is a lot like life, in microcosm. The season begins with warm and sunny days filled with optimism and hope. As the season progresses, the sunshine wanes, the warmth diminishes, and optimistic hope is qualified by the hard lifelike realities of fierce competition, unexpected injuries, and the innate difficulty of sustained human effort. The days grow colder, the rains come, and optimistic vision becomes more realistic. It is always easier to declare the top position in anything than to reach it. While hope perdures, ultimate victory is again a fickle lady, ever to be wooed with all one’s might, but never in this life to be securely or forever won. Each week is a new encounter; each season a new challenge. Life is like that too, because it is spent in time, amid all the vicissitudes of personal trials and existential difficulties. Anyone who thinks otherwise lives in a dreamworld where reality has been entirely replaced by fantasy. But a football season, like life, is authentic and real, as well as somewhat fantastic.”

“So another football season passes, with all its very real excitement, effort, hope, youthful optimism, and ultimate success, the National Championship. You have lived with it and through it. The cheers all fade away into the dusk. The tissue-draped trees and lawns are cleaned up again for the last time. We return to the real and hard world of books, quizzes, and work yet to be done before the Christmas vacation begins. The stadium, stark and silent, is etched against a gray wintry sky. Nearby, the Library beckons with its myriad lights.”

“Was it all worthwhile, in this time and in this place? I think so, if we see the deeper meaning of it all. Reality is enriched by fantasy, if fantasy is allowed to illuminate reality, but not to engulf it. In another age, as harsh as our own, there were jousts and jesters, tournaments and trials of skill and strength to lighten the harshness and illumine the lessons of life. A football season has all the same qualities for our day. Life would be dull indeed without these interludes which, in Dec. 9, 1966 their own midtwentieth-century American way, can explain life to us, make it more deeply understandable and, therefore, livable.”

“I say all of this in the face of those who in a seemingly superior intellectual fashion depreciate, denigrate, and deplore the football season in our land. Collsion on the gridiron is still better, I believe, than violence in the streets. Both have their own relationship to equality of opportunity in America, one positive and one negative.”

“I would hope that in the larger university community in America we might see the football season, with all its appeal to young and old alike, in the perspective of a larger meaning of learning, and education, and life. The football season can, of course, be overdone, wrenched out of all perspective, so that even the fantastic becomes the phantasmagoric, as is done by prolonging the season unduly, indulging in an increasing orgy of bowl games, the psychedelic dream makers of collegiate football.”

“Kept within proper bounds of time, place, and emphasis, I believe strongly that the football season is indeed worthwhile. The noise is ephemeral and does die away. The display, the spectacle, the color, the excitement linger only in memory. But the spirit, the will to excel, and the will to win perdure. These human qualities are larger and much more important than the passing events that occasion them, just as the ebb and flow of all our daily efforts add up to something greater and more enduring if they create within each one of us a person who grows, who understands, who really lives, who does not merely survive, but who prevails for a larger, more meaningful victory in time and, hopefully, in eternity as well.”

So ... how big do you think our margin of victory will be over Duke on Saturday?