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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football - The 1919 Season

The Season’s Undefeated Champs

Knute Rockne buying a copy of Collier’s, for which he wrote a series of articles.
University of Notre Dame Athletics

Now that I’ve made it through the 11 “claimed” Notre Dame Fighting Irish national championship years, I’m going to go through the “unclaimed” national championships: 1919, 1920, 1927, 1938, 1953, 1964, 1967, 1970, 1989, 1993, and 2012. This week I’m going to share an excerpt from the 1919 Notre Dame Football Review, “The Season’s Undefeated Champs.”

To Notre Dame’s Heroes of the Gridiron of the Past, Present and Future. This modest “review” is respectfully dedicated.

All-American Champs

This indeed is a fit title for Coach Rockne’s squad of “Fighting Irish.” They have just finished a very successful season, having met with no defeats and captured the honors in nine consecutive contests. Some may doubt as to whether or not they deserve to be called “All-American Champs.” Surely their victory over the strong Army team places them above any of the much-heard-of Eastern elevens.


On October 4th our men met Kalamazoo College on Cartier Field. Our line was not yet in perfect shape, and Kalamazoo furnished rather unexpected opposition. However, as the game progressed, several sensational plays in which Bahan, Malone and Gipp starred, resulted in two touchdowns. Bergman figured in a fifty-yard run through the entire line. The final score was 14 to 0.

Mount Union

Mount Union College arrived at Cartier Field on October 11th. This contest we must confess, was more or less farcical. First appearances indicated that the game would be very close. At the finish of the first period the score was tied at 7 all. The remainder of the game was very much different from the first quarter. The result was 60 to 7.


The following Saturday found the Gold and Blue at Lincoln, Nebraska, where they had journeyed for the sole purpose of defeating the University of Nebraska eleven. This end was accomplished by a score of 14 to 9. This was the biggest event of the season for the “Cornhuskers” and they put up a good fight. Bergman and Gipp were too much for the farmers, and aided by Bahan’s headwork, the “Fighting Irish” registered another victory - the first one of the season on a foreign field.

Western State Normal

The next visitors at Cartier Field were the eleven of Western State Normal. This game was more or less farcical also. They came upon the field with a rather victorious spirit, having recently defeated M. A. C. and Wabash. Appearances were that they intended to appropriate another victory - until the game began. Then appearances changed. Rockne’s men gained “ad libitum.” The curtain fell at 53 to 0.


Washington Park in Indianapolis was the scene of the next battle. Notre Dame was accompanied by six hundred rooters, who had secured a special train for the occasion. The air was laden with N. D. spirit. The game was played in the rain and on a field of mud. Rockne saved most of the stars for the Army game, so that in the latter part, Indiana was struggling with a bunch of substitute’s. “Hunk” Anderson, Gipp, and Slackford showed great skill in manouvering in the mud. The final count was 16 to 3.


On the following Saturday the Gold and Blue met her ancient enemy on the Cadet’s field at West Point. Bergman did not accompany the team. He injured his knee in the Indiana game. In the first half of the game things looked pretty bad for our squad. However, the old fighting spirit carried them through, and once more the flag of Notre Dame was raised in victory over the officers by a score of 12 to 9.

Michigan Aggies

On the 15th of November Cartier Field was honored by the presence of the Michigan Aggies. They were accompanied by two hundred rooters and a fifty-piece band. They entered the camp of the “Rockmen” with a strong determination to carry home the bacon. The Aggies had a far heavier team but the fast work of Bahan, Slackford, Gipp and Kirk was too much for the farmers. The contest was brought to a close 13 to 0 by a sensational pass, Gipp to Kirk.


The eighth consecutive victory was registered at Lafayette, where the N. D. squad had travelled to meet Purdue. The team was slightly over-confident at the beginning of the game, having defeated the Army so gallantly, and the “Boilermakers” scored a touchdown in the first quarter. The “Irish” soon found themselves, however, and Bergman and Kirk fixed things up in the second period. In the last half, successive passes in which Gipp, “Hunk” Anderson, Trafton and Kirk figured, resulted in a final count of 33 to 13.


On Thanksgiving day the Blue and Gold journeyed to Sioux City to meet Morningside. The game was played amid snow flakes and the temperature registered ten above. A fumble at the beginning of the game gave Morningside their only marker. Brandy broke through for a touchdown and “George” followed his example. The scoring ended at 14 to 7. This finished the victorious season of the Gold and Blue. Indeed they are highly deserving of the title - “ALL-AMERICAN CHAMPS.”

I’d like to end by including a poem, also included in the 1919 ND Football Review, entitled “The Battle Call.”

The Battle Call

by V. F. Fagan, ‘20

The cleats and tape, and pads were set,
and helmets lashed to fighting jaws.
They set and crouched, Pete with the ball.
In silent soberness they met the coaches’ burning glare.
The pause was tense, then flared the battle call.

“Well boys, we’re here!
They’ve always feared our teams.
But now they smile contemptuous of your fighting name.
In other years they never jeered, it meant hot hell
to goad and rile those old-time men of Notre Dame.

“Remember Philbin and ‘Big’ Mac?
They’re gone! But, boys, their spirit’s here.
Today Kirk, when you tackle, crash your man!
And Hartley, fling them back!
That fullback quits, drive in and smear each play.
Charge low, and, Slackford, smash!

They say you’re yellow, guts are gone,
for all I know they may be right.
Hit them with all you’ve got!
And, Joe, let Bergman rip on forty-one.
Stand back! you devils, wild to fight!
It’s time, now tear them up! Let’s go!”

One last thing, I found this gem on YouTube, that I thought you might enjoy.

Notre Dame Whips Army Eleven 7-0

Cheers & GO IRISH!

If you’re headed to South Bend for the Blue & Gold game this weekend, have a fantastic time! I wish I could be there but I have conflict on the same day... but I’ll definitely be thinking about you all!