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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish VS Navy Midshipmen, 1943

Onrushing Notre Dame moved up another notch toward gridiron glory by defeating the pride of the Navy, Annapolis, before 86,000 hysterical fans, a record attendance for Municipal Stadium.

Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy, left, gives his quarterback, Angelo Bertelli, instructions for the last time during a game against Navy at Municipal Stadium on Oct. 30, 1943. (Associated Press file)
Associated Press file

I’m not sure about you but my feet have not touched the ground after last week’s win over the Clemson Tigers. This week, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish head to Baltimore, Maryland, to face the Navy Midshipmen. The two teams have met each other 94 times, and Notre Dame leads the series 78-13-1. Notre Dame’s largest margin of victory is 56-7 (1970), and their longest win streak is 43 (1964-2006). Navy’s largest margin of victory is 33-7 (1956), and their longest win streak is 2 (1933-1934). The current win streak is held by Notre Dame, and is four (2017-2021).

Notre Dame’s all time record is 935-334-42 (.729), and Navy’s all time record is 732-591-57 (.551). Notre Dame has played in 38 bowl games (18-20-0), to Navy’s 24 (12-11-1). Notre Dame has had 105 consensus All-American’s, to Navy’s 24. Notre Dame has spent 852 weeks in the AP Poll, to Navy’s 139. And Notre Dame has had 7 Heisman winners, to Navy’s 2.

This week I’m going to share an excerpt from the December 10, 1943 issue of the Scholastic, featuring the 1943 Notre Dame VS Navy game, which was played in Cleveland, Ohio. (Written by John Power.)

Onrushing Notre Dame moved up another notch toward gridiron glory by defeating the pride of the Navy, Annapolis, before 86,000 hysterical fans, a record attendance for Municipal Stadium. The bombshell in Notre Dame’s lightning attack was Angelo Bertelli, recent winner of the Heisman Trophy, who literally and figuratively sunk the Navy by heaving three touchdown passes and scoring another on a plunge. The “Springfield Rifle,” playing his last game for the Irish, left the field only to be mobbed by photographers, reporters, and spectators alike. Mello, Miller, and Kulbitski hammered, and charged across the white stripes to pick up consistent chunks of yardage throughout the afternoon.

The heralded, undefeated Navy eleven fought valiantly, with its hard-charging line and Hal Hamberg paving the way for the Middie’s lone touchdown. From start to finish the game was a pitching duel between “Bert” and this one-hundred and fifty pounds of dynamite. For sixty thrill-packed minutes Hal withstood the rushing Irish to hurl thirty-eight passes, eight of which were complete.

Bertelli started the ball rolling on a touchdown pass from midfield to Julie Rykovich, who romped the remaining distance in record time. One touchdown was not enough, however, for Mr. Bertelli, so he took things into his own hands, fed a short pass to Miller, who sidestepped, stiff-armed, and scampered for forty yards and a score.

With the start of the second half, only one touchdown ahead, the Green and Gold unleashed its vicious power to romp at will over the now tired but game men of Annapolis. A long struggle downfield was culminated as “Bert” threw his third consecutive touchdown pass. The Steamroller came back for more as Mello intercepted a Navy pass and rambled forty yards to the Middie’s 12, where Miller plowed through center for six points. Navy, in desperation, began to throw passes hither and yon, moved to the “Irish” 14, threatened to score, but Messrs. Limont, White, Filley, Coleman, Perko, Czarobsld, and Yonaker objected vehemently, and Notre Dame took over on downs. The streamlined “T” machine cut Kulbitski loose as he galloped seventy-one yards to the Navy 8, where the Irish refueled, sending Bertelli through the middle for the final score.

And so it was that Angelo Bertelli, Notre Dame’s greatest passer, left the gridiron in a blaze of glory as another foe fell by the wayside, but Notre Dame moved ever onward, crushing opponent after opponent, never stopping for a breather. Color, spirit, stamina, and speed had won another ball game for the Fighting Irish.

—John Power

I don’t know about you, but I always worry about Navy. Especially after a huge win like we had last week over Clemson. What do you think? Are you worried about Navy being a trap game? (As if we needed another trap game.) Or do you think the boys have the mental toughness to hit the field running and easily handle Navy. What say you?

Cheers & GO IRISH!