This week is the fifth week in my series on Notre Dame Fighting Irish national title winning seasons, and this week I’m going to highlight the 1946 season and the November 23rd match-up against the Tulane Green Wave. The 1946 Irish squad, coached by Frank Leahy, finished their season with eight wins and one tie (against Army at Yankee Stadium, coined one of college football’s “games of the century”), winning the national title. The 1946 team became the fifth Irish squad to win a national championship, and Leahy’s second. This 1946 team is the first team in what is considered to be the Notre Dame football dynasty, which consisted of a stretch of games in which Notre Dame went 236-0-2, won three national championships, and two Heisman Trophies, during the years 1946-1949.
Below is the Notre Dame vs. Tulane game summary from the 1946 Notre Dame Football Review, written by Joe Cheney.
N.D. Smothers Green Wave, 41-0
NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 23.—Notre Dame’s football machine invaded the deep south this afternoon and routed the Green Wave of Tulane, 41 to 0, before 68,000 frenzied football fans.
Johnny Lujack, quarterbacking the Irish attack, never looked better than he did today as he completed his first six passes which set up Notre Dame’s drives to touchdown town. The Irish marched 91 yards to their first score as Lujack mixed his plays superbly. His two passes to Brennan gave Notre Dame first down on Tulane’s 20-yard line. Jim Mello carried it over for a touchdown on four successive line plays.
After Tulane punted from its own 40, the Irish were again on the march and seven plays later Lujack hit Brennan with a long aerial on the Tulane 3-yard line where “the Irish work-horse” lugged it over for a score. Fred Earley’s kick was good and the first period ended 13 to 0 in favor of Notre Dame.
The second team took over in the second period and for the first time this season were slow in getting started. Bill Gompers raced 35 yards for a touchdown but the play was called back and Notre Dame was penalized 15 yards for holding. Tulane then got a break when Kotteman recovered Cowhig’s fumble on the Notre Dame 36-yard line. Tulane’s attack was mild and Nutt kicked out of bounds on the Irish 9. Livingstone, Panelli, and Gompers teamed up on running plays and brought the ball all the way to the Tulane 21-yard line. Gompers twisted through to the Tulane 4, but Notre Dame was penalized for backfield in motion. Ernie Zalejski, the highly-touted freshman who has been on the bench with bad legs, broke into the clear and galloped 24 yards for the third Irish score. Fred Earley booted the extra point.
Less than five minutes later, Ernie scored his second touchdown of the afternoon. Notre Dame took possession of the ball on Tulane’s 49-yard line and four plays later Zalejski plunged through right tackle for the score. By this time the crowd had taken a liking to Fred Earley, who never wears any shoulder pads and looks like a sixteen-year-old kid when he trots out onto the field to boot the extra points. Fred again matched the numeral on the back of his green jersey by splicing the uprights to give the Irish a 27 to 0 lead at half time.
Lujack’s passing again brought about another Notre Dame marker. The Irish this time marched 81 yards using both air and ground attacks with a little bit of everything tossed into the drive. Gompers picked up 23 yards on the old Statue of Liberty play and the Irish were again rolling. Lujack completed a pass to Limont who immediately lateraled to Zalejski, Ernie was forced out of bounds but not until he had picked up another 11 yards. Two more Lujack passes brought the ball to Tulane’s front door which the hard driving Notre Dame line swung open and Mello scooted through. Earley’s kick was good and the third quarter ended 34-0.
Mike Swistowicz ran wild in the final quarter. He picked up long and short gains along with Ernie Zalejski and Coy McGee. McGee ended the drive with a five-yard jaunt off his right tackle and scored his first Notre Dame touchdown. Fred Earley’s attempt for the extra point was good, giving him a total of 29 points scored for the Fighting Irish this year out of 34 attempts. Tulane’s bid for a score fizzled as the game ended with the Irish ahead 41 to 0.
The victory proved costly to Notre Dame because it lost the services of Emil Sitko, leading Irish ground gainer of the season, and Ernie Zalejski, leading ground gainer of this game, for the rest of the season. Sitko was injured as he was tackled early in the first period. Bill Gompers proved a good substitute for the injured halfback. Zalejski tore a cartilage in his knee after gaining ten yards in the middle of the fourth period. No one was near him and it appeared that he was going 43 yards for another score. But his knee snapped and he fell to the ground. It is probable that the injury will keep him on the shelf during spring practice.
Today’s statistics give Notre Dame 25 first downs to Tulane’s 6. The Irish rolled up 428 yards on the ground while the Green Wave netted 22. Notre Dame gained 124 net yards through the air while Tulane gained 79. Notre Dame completed 9 out of 13 forward passes; Tulane completed 11 out of 22. In the penalty parade the Irish lost 55 yards while the Tulane players managed to get through the afternoon without a single infraction of rules.
Next week ... 1947!
Cheers & GO IRISH!