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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Missouri Tigers

Was that a tiger or a kitten?

Joe Theismann - Notre Dame

Now that I’m back in my home state of Missouri, I thought I’d spend this week’s Throwback Thursday post talking about the series of games between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the University of Missouri Tigers.

The two teams have faced each other four times over the years; in 1970, 1972, 1978 and 1984. They have each won two games, with the majority (three) of the contests being won/lost within a three point margin. The largest margin of victory was the 1970 game in which Notre Dame beat Mizzou 24-7.

How do the team’s records stack up? Here are two interesting info-graphics from Winsipedia comparing the two teams (Mizzou in yellow, and ND in blue).

Since the Notre Dame win in 1970 is the widest margin of any of the contests these two teams have had, I’ll delve into that game a little further. In 1970, Notre Dame faced the University of Missouri at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri, on October 17th, at 3:50pm. Yes, 3:50pm.

College Town, USA

In the Scholastic Football Review, they described the trip to Columbia as follows: “The Automobile Association of America (AAA) puts out a tour-guide map that neatly sketches a route from one place in the U.S.A. to another for any of its members, providing the best possible roads and a whole collection of other incidental information. On it’s map of Missouri, there’s a section titled, ‘Places of Interest.’ and right there, if you look closely enough, you’ll find a heading marked, ‘Columbia: College Town, USA.’ And they aren’t kidding, either. Columbia, Missouri, is the home of the University of Missouri and a horde of other smaller colleges. Unlike South Bend, it’s strictly college-town all the way. Everywhere you look there’s a ‘college gift shop,’ a ‘college clothing store,’ a college this,’ a college that.’”

The Deafening Roar of the Tiger Fans

But on that grey fall day in Columbia, Missouri, the Tiger fans were not the ones celebrating into the wee hours of the morning. This was not, however, due to a lack of crowd engagement during the game. The Scholastic story explained, “Time and again on this grey October day, ND’s Joe Theismann had to back off from the scrimmage as the referees vainly tried to quell the deafening roar of the Tiger fans, only to have the multitude reach back and attempt to create their own sonic boom on the ensuing play. The ticket office down in Columbia had also called a neat little play that surprised many of those who had traveled over 500 miles to witness the game. They arranged it so that the Notre Dame fans were scattered all over the stadium, thus minimizing the possibility of a vocal counterattack by the ever-boisterous Irish. Clever!”

The Tigers started the game giving the hometown fans plenty to roar about, as they drove from their own 33 to the ND 10 on a mixture of running and passing plays. But linebacker Tim Kelly came up with a big interception to stall the Mizzou drive; which pretty much derailed the Tigers for the rest of the game. The first half score may not have shown this (3-0 ND at the half), but the second half score most certainly did.

As the second half began, the Tigers didn’t completely roll over and play dead. On their second possession, Mizzou speedster Mel Gray caught Mike Farmer’s pass and dashed downfield into the end zone. But that would be the one and only score for the Tigers that day. On the next drive, Joe Theismann connected with Tom Gatewood for his first passing touchdown of the afternoon, putting the Irish back on top, 10-7. On the next drive, Theismann worked his magic once more, connecting with Ed Gulyas, who raced 30 yards down the sideline for a second Irish touchdown, 17-7 Irish. Gulyas would score once more, for the final Notre Dame touchdown of the game on a one yard run into the end zone, securing the win and a final score of 24-7 ND.

We Beat a Fine Football Team

As reported in the Scholastic, “Coach Parseghian was pleased with the outcome, pleased at the way his boys had not given up once they were behind. But one sportswriter was hell-bent on making an issue out of Missouri’s injury-status. Notre Dame, too, had it’s injuries. But this reporter was adamant in his questioning. ‘How did Missouri’s injuries affect today’s outcome?’ Ara replied, ‘We beat a fine football team.’ Apparently not satisfied with this, he kept up with the same line of questioning, until Ara could be prodded no more, ‘If Missouri didn’t have their injuries, they wouldn’t have beaten us; that’s what you wanted me to say, isn’t it?’ The reporter didn’t even blink, but Ara went on to explain, ‘If you play a team that has injuries and you barely beat them, or lose, then you’re ridiculed. If you overwhelm them, they say you took advantage of their injuries.’ And having neatly summed up his philosophy full well for all, except that one reporter, he proceed with the interview.”

Nicely done, Coach!

Until next week ... Cheers & GO IRISH!