My off-season series of “Notre Dame Football Firsts” continues this week with the first meeting between Notre Dame and Purdue - 1896. So far I’ve covered USC, Stanford, and Navy. Unfortunately, the Notre Dame Football Reviews stored in archives only go back to 1900, so I had no luck finding info on this game there.
The game was played on November 14, 1896, in South Bend, Ind., and Purdue beat Notre Dame by a score of 28-22. Even though Notre Dame lost the first game of the series, they currently lead the series overall with 57 wins. Purdue has 26 wins, and there were two ties. The rivalry became an annual tradition in 1946, and the teams played each other every year from 1946-2014. The most recent matchup between the two teams was in 2021, in South Bend, where Notre Dame won 27-13.
Since I can’t find any stories from the game in 1896, I’ll share with you two Notre Dame vs. Purdue memories from former Notre Dame football players. The first is one of Allen Rossum’s favorite football memories from his time at Notre Dame.
For a guy whose NFL specialties included kickoffs and punt returns, Allen is the last person that you’d expect to see being schooled by head coach Lou Holtz. But that’s exactly what happened early on in his career at Notre Dame and is one of Allen’s favorite memories.
“I would have to begin with my memories of him teaching me to catch punts. Hilarious! Even though I never returned a punt or a kickoff before, Coach Holtz asked me if I could return one kickoff per game for him. The funny part was, him attempting to catch them. He swore he also taught Rocket Ismail and Tim Brown the same thing.” His next favorite Lou Holtz memory came prior to the first game of the 1996 season. “Coach Holtz had us all in the indoor facility, lying down on the field, all the lights were out and he’s talking us through the game that would occur the next day. ‘Sophomore Allen Rossum is going to take the opening kickoff. You guys are going to block for him and he’s going to score.’ Thanks for the pressure coach, I thought. Well, as it so happened, Purdue kicked the opening kickoff to me and I ran 99 yards and scored a touchdown. I was so excited that I was just jumping up and down in the end zone. After that I would return one kickoff per game and scored twice more that year.”
The second Notre Dame vs. Purdue memory is from Ken MacAfee.
Part of what draws you to play a sport like football is the competition. There is the competition that occurs against other teams, and then there is also the competition that occurs within the team to win a starting position in the various positions. The latter can either bond you as a team, or it can become divisive as it did during MacAfee’s time at Notre Dame. But no matter what challenge the game threw at them, the Notre Dame Value Stream was always there to help them work through it and overcome adversity.
“There was a great deal of separation among the team. A lot of guys thought Joe Montana should be the starter and some thought Rusty Lisch should be the starter. There was a great deal of controversy around the quarterback position, even within the team. Joe came in on three separate occasions during his sophomore year when we were losing in the fourth quarter and we won each one of those games. Most notable was the Air Force game; we were down 30- 10 with 10 minutes left in the game and he brought us back to win 31-30. Then against North Carolina, we were losing 14-3 and Montana threw an 80-yard touchdown pass with a minute left. Everyone knew what his abilities were, unfortunately he got hurt in spring practice (before his junior year season) and had to sit out a year.”
“When he came back everyone was confident in his ability but the coaches were unsure as he had been out a year. Instead of giving him an opportunity they started Rusty Lisch. Lisch was a great athlete but he was not a good quarterback. He ended up playing for the St. Louis Cardinals as a defensive back. Montana was just a better quarterback and most people were of this same opinion, but Devine thought Lisch should get the starting nod. When we were losing 10-0 to Purdue in the first quarter, Devine put in Gary Forystek. Forystek was known for his passing game and so he came out passing. Then he took this really awful hit that ended up breaking his neck. It was the first time I had ever seen an ambulance come out onto the field. After they took Forystek off the field Devine put Lisch back in but we were still in the same quandary that we were in before and so then he went to Montana. Montana’s first pass was to me. He threw this wounded duck of a ball to me. A Purdue linebacker stepped in front of me with 60 yards of green grass in front of him and snatched the ball but he ended up dropping the ball. After that Joe settled down. We came back to beat Purdue by a score of 31-24 with 17 unanswered Notre Dame points in the fourth quarter. After that win, the rest is history; we didn’t lose another game the rest of the year. He proved his abilities that year, which gave him great opportunities moving forward into the NFL.”
Next week I’ll try and track down something from Notre Dame and Michigan State’s first meeting in 1897,
Cheers & GO IRISH!