Hello, again! This is week six in my series of the “unclaimed” Notre Dame Fighting Irish football national championship seasons, and this week I’m looking at the 1964. This season has a soft spot in my heart, as it was my dad’s senior year at ND, and I’ve already written a few stories on this season:
by Steve Anderson
NOTRE DAME, INDIANA, November 16, 1964 — A ten-year victory famine ended today when the undefeated Irish feasted on Michigan State University, 34-7. Irish appetites were whetted by eight straight losses to the Spartans, and Ara Parseghian proved himself a chef supreme with a skillful preparation of the feast.
59,265 fans jammed Notre Dame Stadium and millions more watched on national television as Parseghian and the Irish answered several questions. Had the close victory over Pittsburgh been a dire forecast of things to come? Would the loss of key performers Bill Wolski and Jim Lynch hamper Notre Dame? Didn’t Michigan State have a conclusive knack with Notre Dame?
All of these questions were legitimate ones, but the answer to each was a resounding NO. The atmosphere of victory was established in the first three minutes of play. Michigan State was able to gain but four yards in three running plays, and was forced to punt. The Irish proceeded to pull some surprises out of Ara’s magic hat. They abandoned their traditional I-formation, and lined up in a double wing. Before the Spartans could adjust their defenses, Nick Eddy had swept right end and then veered left as a crushing block by John Atamian sprang him loose on a 61-yard touchdown jaunt.
Soon after, Michigan State was forced to give up the ball on their own 49. After Eddy ran for four, Joe Farrell gained 15 yards in three carries and then took a pass from John Huarte 22 yards to the MSU eight. An illegal procedure penalty set the Irish back five, but Huarte made amends by pitching a 13-yard score to Farrell. The Irish led 12-0 after only nine minutes of play.
After the kickoff the Irish stopped a Michigan State drive and took over on their own 14. A pass to Jack Snow gained 20 and moved the Irish out of trouble. Huarte followed this with a 26-yard pass to Bob Merkle. Four carries by Eddy gained 33, Farrell bucked for two, and Eddy went the final five on a pitchout. Huarte found Snow in the end zone for a two-point conversion, and the Irish took a 20-0 lead into the locker room.
The opening minutes of the second half provided some anxious moments for Notre Dame fans. After a 78-yard touchdown run by Eddy was nullified by an illegal procedure penalty, Michigan State started to regain its lost confidence. A long run for a touchdown by Clint Jones was called back by a penalty, but Juday followed with a pass over the middle to Gene Washington who sped untouched into the end zone to complete a 51-yard play. Lou Bobich’s place kick closed the gap to 20-7.
The Irish defense refused to be shaken, however, and set up the last two Irish scores with interceptions. After a theft by Tom Longo had stopped a State drive, the Irish were forced to punt. Tony Carey stole a Juday bomb, though, and ran it back to the Spartan 29. After two plays lost seven yards, John Huarte revived the restless fans with a 16-yard pass to Snow. With a fourth-down-and-one situation, the Spartans were prepared for a crack at the middle. But Huarte rolled out right and dodged his way 21 yards to the end zone. Huarte followed his run for a touchdown with a pass to Eddy for two points. Captain Jim Carroll set up the final score with an interception on the MSU 15. Sandy Bonvechio led the team in from there, and Pete Andreotti scored the final touchdown on a two-yard plunge.
The happy Irish fans were quick to sing the praises of Huarte and Carroll, Eddy and Longo, Farrell and Meyer, Snow and Carey, and the rest of the great Irish team. But the players were quick to hoist Ara Parseghian to their shoulders in tribute to the man they knew was most responsible for ending Michigan State’s long domain as masters of Irish football fortunes.
I’d like to share one more thing from this season with you, this piece written by Father Hesburgh:
On Being Number One
IT’S DARK OUTSIDE and cold. There is a strange quiet on a campus that usually is pretty noisy. Of course, most of you are away for Thanksgiving and probably matching, for the moment, the mood of this place on the evening of Saturday, November 28, 1964. As a famous politician said on losing the presidential election, “I’m too old to cry, and not old enough not to feel the hurt.”
Ten weeks ago, none of you expected the extraordinary season we’ve had. Certainly, no one expected Notre Dame to be No. 1 for a number of weeks and to come within two minutes of the National Championship. Southern California had done it to us before, and we have done it to them, too, but somehow the world went on, the sun rose again the next morning, and people began to dream of next year. That’s football and, in a sense, that’s life too — we can never be sure of total victory, not even of eternal salvation, until we’ve won it. And win it we must, day by day, even minute by minute. Don’t ever stop wanting to be No. 1, but especially don’t ever stop trying.
I’m certainly not saying the team stopped trying. They have been great all year and, if anything, have given us far more than we could have hoped for. I salute them, one and all. They carried the burden of long hours of practice, the bruises, the blood, sweat, and tears that gave us nine victories out of ten starts, and a revitalized tradition of great games and a great pride in winning against the best in the land.
All through this exciting fall, especially since becoming No. 1, I’ve been sorely tempted to write a few words to all of you — non-team members, but Notre Darners all the same — about some of the things that made us less than No. 1. The heart of sport is spirit. Notre Dame spirit has been our greatest boast over the years, even when we were losing. This is what brought Coach Parseghian here — even when the prospects looked rather dismal last fall.
Spirit you have. No doubt about that. But we have to remind ourselves at times that spirit is more than noise. It has a kinship with the spiritual in sport. In this sense, it’s called sportsmanship. This kind of spirit never abuses a competitor — without him there would be no game — and with him, what takes place can be exciting, thrilling, even hard-nosed without degenerating into cheap abuse, disrespect, or a boorish lack of fair play. After all, it is still a game. In the Middle Ages when games were often a matter of life and death, there was still a spiritual quality to them called chivalry.
This is the unwritten code that makes sport different than crude brutality, and spirit in sport is something quite different than mere noise, bombs, mob mentality, sick humor, and toilet paper. One of the greatest signs of immaturity is not to be capable of living with success, without becoming arrogant, boorish, or just plain unbearable. Those who win success the hard way, like the team, rarely show these unpleasant qualities — only those who ride the coattails of success the easy way do.
Having said all this, and I realize it applies mainly to a minority of Notre Dame men, may I say that its appearance on campus this fall puts a new responsibility on the majority who do want to be good sports. If Notre Dame is not teaching you to be responsible as individuals, to be independent of the mass mentality, to be unwilling to be classed with the lowest common denominator, then the educational process isn’t taking hold, and we will deserve the growing bad name we have begun to acquire this fall — even while achieving great success.
I happen to believe that our student body has every capability of being No. 1, and should be so in every way, be it sports, or honor system, or academic or spiritual achievement. All I’m really saying is that life goes on, the challenge remains and it will be a really dark and cold place here if we ever lose the desire to be No. 1 in everything we do, or lack grace and style and humanity in doing it.
-Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh
Next week ... 1967!
Cheers & GO IRISH!