Irish History: Notre Dame Ends Oklahoma’s Streak

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.

always fighting
Always Fighting Irish by John Heisler is printed with the permission of Triumph Books /

This excerpt from Always Fighting Irish by John Heisler is printed with the permission of Triumph Books /

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

Al Ecuyer

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.

Bob Wetoska

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.

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  1. Does anyone remember Clark Fergus playing football for Norte Dame in 1956-1958? I know he played but can’t find anything about him.

  2. Was the 7 to 0 win for the 1957 fighting Irish over Oklahoma televised that day . I live in Norman and thought I was going to the OU vs ND game that day as an 8 year old and my Dad took a friend of his instead . When the game was over and ND had ended OU’s 47 game win streak , my Dad and his friend came home and by the way they looked , I thought someone had died . A good friend of mine who was 7 years old was given the helmet by # 57 that day and when he took it home his Dad thought he had just picked up the helmet and ran away with it . #57 Chuck Puntillo was so exited about ND’s win over the Sooners and breaking OU’s 47 game win streak that he just gave the helmet to my friend.

  3. November 15, 1957, when the Notre Dame football team (4-2 & a 18 point underdog) traveled to Oklahoma to take on the mighty Sooners, winners of forty-seven consecutive games. On game day, at Mass in a small town outside Norman, the players were met by a group of grade-school children: “They were begging us to win so they could have bragging rights against the Baptists. It was kind of a ‘win one for the Catholics’ thing.” Notre Dame won, 7–0.

    Though the developments of American Catholic history have weakened the identity between Catholics’ status and Notre Dame football success, the Catholic flavor of Irish football remains unmistakable. Players still attend Mass together before processing through the throngs of fans toward the stadium, accompanied by the oldest collegiate marching band in the country, which dates to the 1887 Michigan contest. “Notre Dame football weekends are tightly scripted extravaganzas … ,” observes theology professor Father Thomas O’Meara, OP, “designed by people with an attachment to sacramental rituals.” Followers of Notre Dame football, are linked not by geography but by “spirituality and a history that’s woven into each of its nooks and crannies … into its songs, it’s history, and its memories.”

    “We are the Fighting Irish. We enter each contest knowing that the Grace of God is on our shoulders”

  4. I more than get the idea that OU is picked to beat us in their house. But, How on earth are they picked to beat us by more than our average points allowed on the season. That seems kind of goofy. I hope Tuitt is all over Landry this weekend.

  5. Notre Dames record versus Oklahoma, U.S.C., Alabama, Texas, Michigan, Florida (1992)speaks for itself!

    NOTE: This presigious list once included tO.S.U. yet tO.S.U. now holds a “1” game edge… ND defeated Ohio in what has to be described as a heroic effort!! The game was held in 1935 when the “Scarlett” (as Ohio went by then) were ranked number #1′! Played in Columbus, Ohio the huge stadium held well over 80,000 Ohioans that afternoon.

  6. We received this from Pat Dolan daughter.

    “Five members of the Class of 1958 Notre Dame Football team gathered with their families and other members of their graduating class to share some Rocco’s pizza, beer, laughs, and, fond memories at the Woodbridge Villas in South Bend on Saturday, October 20th after watching their team go 7-0 against BYU! Frank Kuchta, Carl Hebert, John McGinley, Patrick (“Pat”) Dolan and Charles (“Chuck”) Lima were among the Fighting Irish who traveled to Norman, Oklahoma almost fifty five years ago on November 16, 1957, to end Sooners’ the 47-game, 1,512-day college football winning streak. They will all be watching and cheering from their respective homes around the nation this coming Saturday as the 2012 team faces Oklahoma to continue their own winning streak! GO IRISH, BEAT THE SOONERS!”

    Have a picture as well!

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