July 18, 2013 // Notre Dame History

Notre Dame’s 1947 National Championship – Its Best Ever?

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Notre Dame's 1947 National Championship Team

Were the 1947 Notre Dame Fighting the greatest Notre Dame football team of all time? History suggests they just might be. (Photo: Notre Dame Media Relations)

We continue our summer trip down memory lane by looking back at Notre Dame’s 1947 National Championship – the third won under the guidance of Frank Leahy and the program’s seven overall.

Notre Dame’s Loaded Roster in 1947

Lujack was back for his inevitable run for the Heisman. Creighton Miller had graduated, but Terry Brennan and Red Sitko were slated to be the primary ball carriers. The line was one of the greatest in the grand and glorious history of college football. It included fiver future Hall of Famers: Ziggy Czarobski, George Connor, Bill Fischer, Jim Martin and Leon Hart. They were skilled and had great technique but they were massive for the day.

Leahy had stockpiled talent. He and his staff had motivated talent. And with all the roster competition and Leahy’s intensity they had developed talent. A total of 46 players from the 1947 Notre Dame football team would go on to play professional football.

Early Dominance for Notre Dame

The Irish opened at Pittsburgh and pounded the Panthers 40-6. Rock liked playing at Pitt as it gave him a local showcase for the sons of miners and steel workers in the Western Pennsylvania Iron, Steel and Rust belt.

The Irish then trekked to the banks of the Wavbash River to play Purdue. The Irish prevailed 22-7 against first year coach Stu Holcomb.

Next was the home opener against Nebraska The Irish pitched their first shutout of the season 31-0. So far, the Irish had never trailed in any of the three games played.

The Irish next shutout the Iowa Hawkeyes, 21-0. Lujack was showing a better passing touch as a senior, on his way to completing 61 of 109 for777 yards. Leahy worked in his backup, Frank Tripucka, later the father of basketball player Kelly Tripucka, for 25 completions in 42 attempts. Depth.

The Irish then went to Cleveland to play the Naval Academy and notched their third consecutive shutout 27-0. Still, they had not trailed in any of their six games.

At Last, Army Visits South Bend

The Irish next welcomed 8th ranked Army to South Bend after having played Army in their back yard in New York for 16 years in a row.

The fleet Terry Brennan scored an early 97 yard kickoff return touchdown to put the Irish up. The relentless running attack supplemented Lujack’s key passes. Brennan and Sitko would rush for over 400 yards each for the year, but it was the richness of depth that easily carried the Irish to over 2400 rushing yards. Nine backs had over 100 yards rushing. The Irish, for the first time in years, dominated the Cadets and Irish cruised to a 20-0 lead before the Cadets scored.

The final score was Notre Dame 27-Army 7.

Blaik had had enough of the Irish. The next Army-Notre Dame game would be in 1957.

The Irish played their only nominally close game of the year against Northwestern in Evanston, with the Irish winning 26-19.

The Irish then thrashed visiting Tulane, 59-6, to move their record to 8-0. Still, the Irish had not trailed in a single game.

Notre Dame’s Final Challenge – USC

Once again, the Trojans were lying in wait in Los Angeles. The Irish would have two weeks to prepare. The Trojans were Rose Bowl bound and unbeaten, with just a 7-7 tie against Rice blemishing their record.

The entire Los Angeles populace was licking their chops to give the Fighting Irish their comeuppance. This was before the Dodgers or Rams had moved to Los Angeles, and the Trojans were the big team in town.

Leahy let the Trojans and the LA newspapers talk. Then he turned loose his minions and let them do their “talking” on the field of honor.  They were seldom more eloquent, hammering the unbeaten Trojans, 38-7.

The Irish were the National Champions, Leahy’s second in a row on the calendar, and his third in a row as Notre Dame’s head coach – ’43, ’46. ’47. That was never done before and never has been accomplished since. Are you seriously contending that is doesn’t count as a three season streak because Leahy was in the NAVY SERVING HIS COUNTRY in ’44 and ’45?

Johnny Lujack won the Heisman Trophy, and was joined as a consensus First Team All-American by massive George Connor and Bill Fischer.

Notre Dame’s Greatest Football Team Ever?

The Irish never trailed in a football game all year.

The fewest points the Irish scored were 21. The most they allowed was 19. In other words, if Notre Dame had combined its worst offensive scoring day with its worst defensive points allowed day, the Irish still would have won.

Seven players on the team went on to the College Football Hall of Fame.

46 of the players on the roster went on to the NFL.

Those are the numbers, but did the Irish pass the eye test?

The Boston Herald said: “The greatest Notre Dame squad of all time. Its thrid string could whip most varsities.”

Granny Rice weighed in:  ”There no longer is any doubt as to the best team in college football. It happens to be Notre Dame. College football has never known a team so big, so fast, so experienced.”

The Irish were on top of the football world.

Comments to this Article

  • Toulmin H. Brown commented on July 18th, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Greatest ever!!

    [Reply]

  • Mike Sullivan commented on July 18th, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Big D,

    Would you like to see the tapes from these four glory years? Can ship them to you.

    [Reply]

  • duranko commented on July 18th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Great Mike! Send your confidential contact information to

    dickarrington65@yahoo.com

    [Reply]

  • James Cain commented on July 25th, 2013 at 12:11 am

    The question was the 1947 Notre Dame football team the school’s best ever amuses me some.
    I believe it was sometime in the 1980s that Sports Illustrated picked the ’47 squad as the best college team ever!

    I guess it’s true people don’t study history anymore.

    [Reply]

  • Hoody ND commented on July 14th, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Number 29…James Dailer from Wheeling,WV. Also my grandpa. A true ND champion.

    [Reply]

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