With Notre Dame set to travel to Norman, Oklahoma to take on the Sooners this weekend for the first time since 1966, we will stroll down memory lane today with a look back at one of Notre Dame’s most famous wins – the 1957 victory over Oklahoma in Norman that ended the Sooners record long winning streak.
This excerpt from Always Fighting Irish by John Heisler is printed with the permission of Triumph Books / www.triumphbooks.com/
Lynch’s Late Run Ends Record Sooners Streak
The odds were stacked heavily against the Irish.
The 1957 Sooners, defending national champions and No. 2 in the weekly polls, boasted the country’s longest winning streak at 47 games. Oklahoma had not lost since the 1953 home opener when Notre Dame ruined the Sooners’ season debut, 28–21.
Powerful Oklahoma, which had blasted the Irish 40–0 the year before in South Bend, had scored in 123 consecutive contests and was averaging 300 yards a game. The Sooners, playing in their own massive stadium in Norman, Oklahoma, were favored by at least 19 points.
Notre Dame, which suffered through its first losing season in 24 years in 1956, had dropped two straight to Navy and Michigan State (the Irish were outscored 54–12 in those two contests). Coach Terry Brennan was under fire.
Although the Sooners moved all the way down to the Irish 13-yard line on their first possession, the Notre Dame defense dug in and held. Oklahoma would get no closer the rest of the afternoon. Both teams threatened with several offensive drives, but strong defensive stands keep the score at a standstill until late in the fourth quarter.
“I was willing to settle for a scoreless tie in the third quarter,” admitted Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson. “I felt at the start of the second half we had a good chance. But after we couldn’t get going, even with our tremendous punting to their goal, I was ready to settle for a scoreless tie.”
‘The Irish, however, had other plans. With 3:50 left in the game, Notre Dame needed three yards on fourth down to cross the goal line. Quarterback Bob Williams, who had executed nearly each play perfectly all afternoon, faked to Nick Pietrosante in the middle and then pitched to halfback Dick Lynch. Lynch went wide around right end for the touchdown, Monty Stickles kicked the extra point, and Notre Dame had its 7–0 upset.
Williams, who engineered the 80-yard drive in 20 plays, explained, “They were in tight, real tight, just waiting for me tohe Most Important Games…Part I, 1887–1973 109
give the ball to Pietrosante. Well, I just faked to him and tossed out to Lynch and it worked like a charm.”
Brennan, who often called the victory the “greatest thrill of my athletic career,” credited the defense with the win.
“We prepared for them in detail,” he said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of speed and we tried to be as basic as possible. There were only four or five basic plays—and if you stopped them, you had a chance to win. The big thing was to stop their running game.”
The Irish indeed halted the Sooners’ ground attack. Oklahoma managed 98 yards rushing.
When the team arrived back in South Bend after the victory, the Irish were met by more than 5,000 fans. That hearty welcome was richly deserved as Oklahoma’s 47-game winning skein remains the longest in college football.
Irish in Their Own Words
That game against Oklahoma was a great defensive struggle. Our coaches, especially Bernie Witucki [tackles] and Bernie Crimmins [backfield], insisted all week long that we could win. And it worked out the way they said. We could stop them, but we had to score, and we finally put together an 80-yard drive with Dick Lynch scoring to give us a 7–0 win. We lost again to Iowa [21–13], but beat the Trojans [40–12] for a great comeback [7–3] season.
We were 4–2 heading to Norman to take on national champion Oklahoma. I’ll always remember that game. No one gave us a chance, but our coaches made us believe we could win. I was hurt early in the game and replaced by (Jim) Colosimo. He made a couple of good catches, but we couldn’t score. On defense, we he shut out the Sooners’ ground game, and it was a real struggle until we put together a long [80-yard] drive in the fourth period. On fourth and three, Dick Lynch scored the only touchdown, and that 7–0 victory was the highlight of a 7–3 season.