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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame, Michigan State, and a brutal Game of the Century

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The Game of the Century - 1966 Version

Michigan State University Spartans Photo by Michigan State/Collegiate Images via Getty Images

As I sit here watching another gorgeous Michigan sunset, I thought I’d spend this week writing about another foe of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish from the north — the Michigan State Spartans. My Aunt is an aluma of Michigan State, and despite her best efforts, neither I, nor either of my children, followed her path to MSU. She, much like myself, is a huge fan of her school. Her office walls look very much like my “woman cave” ... covered in memorabilia from her school. As I look back at the games the two teams have played, the one that sticks out for me is the “Game of the Century” ... 1966 version.

The two teams faced each other in East Lansing, Michigan, at Spartan Stadium, on November 19th, 1966, each coming into the match-up with an undefeated record. Notre Dame being 8-0, and Michigan State being 9-0. It’s one of the most controversial games that these two teams have played because Notre Dame, with Coach Ara Parseghian at the helm. elected to not try for a score on their final series, ending the game in a 10-10 tie. Notre Dame, who blew out USC the following weekend 51-0, went on to win the National Championship that year.

Why was the game ending in a 10-10 tie so controversial? Well, many thought Notre Dame took the easy way out by not trying to score on their final drive. They were the number one team in the country, and they started the drive from their own 30-yard line, with one minute and fifteen second left on the clock. Surely they would have given it their all to win the game, right? But they did not. They simply let the clock run out, and let the game end in a tie. Were the Irish too torn and tattered to push through the final drive? The game was a rough and tumble one for sure. There were five fumbles, four interceptions, and 25 other incompletions. Not a commanding game for either team. Injuries were also a factor, for the Irish in particular. Nick Eddy (ND’s star running back) missed the game as a result of a slip and fall that happened before the game even started, and Terry Hanratty (ND’s starting quarterback) was knocked out of the game on a big hit by Bubba Smith.

But why not go for it on that final series? What plan was evolving in Coach Parseghian’s head? Were they just too beat up to go any further? Was Coach Parseghian saving his team for the game against Southern Cal the next week?

Were you there? Did you watch it? What do you think?

Here are some game highlights for your viewing pleasure:

And another game highlight reel with commentary from Terry Hanratty and Coach Parseghian himself:

Cheers and GO IRISH!