image_goneFor each copy of the Echoes Awakened DVD that is sold, a contribution will be made to the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation in support of the fight to find a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C Disease — a rare neurodegenerative disorder which causes progressive deterioration of the nervous system and is ultimately fatal. The Foundation was established in 1994 by the Parseghian family after three of Ara Parseghian’s grandchildren were diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C. For more information about the Foundation and its work, visit www.parseghian.org.
TULSA, Oklahoma – Long before the seven second-half touchdowns, the Trojan horse, the green jerseys, #1 vs. #2 in 1988 and the “Bush push”, there was November 28, 1964.
After posting but two winning seasons in the previous eight and having hired its fourth new head coach since 1956, Notre Dame brought a 9-0 record and the number one ranking in the Associated Press college football poll to the Los Angeles Coliseum for its season-finale against archrival Southern California.
The Fighting Irish started the week with a celebration of the news that starting quarterback John Huarte had received the 1964 Heisman Trophy. The week ended with a crashing thud for Notre Dame in a game that turned on what head coach Ara Parseghian later described as having been “the worst officiating call in the history of college football.”
Notre Dame’s 20-17 loss to Southern California – a loss that cost the Irish the mythical national championship in 1964 – is profiled in detail in the new documentary, Echoes Awakened: The Year That Changed The Face of Notre Dame Football.
Based on Jim Dent’s best-selling new book, Resurrection: The Miracle Season That Saved Notre Dame, Echoes Awakened tracks the story of the 1964 Notre Dame football season – beginning with the arrival of Parseghian as the Fighting Irish’s new head coach through the astounding turnaround that saw Notre Dame go from 2-7 in 1963 to within 93 seconds of a perfect 10-0 record a year later.
“Echoes Awakened tells the story of how Ara Parseghian took a Notre Dame football program that was coming off its worst period in history, changed the culture of the program, energized his players and engineered one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sports,” said Bill Flesher, producer of the Echoes Awakened documentary and DVD.
From 1956 through 1963, Notre Dame had only two winning seasons while suffering through a combined eight-season record of 34-45 – the worst eight years in the history of the Fighting Irish. Parseghian came to Notre Dame from Northwestern University in December of 1963 – having led the Wildcats to four consecutive victories over the Irish between 1959 and 1963.
Parseghian arrived in South Bend determined to change the culture of a program that had fallen from the lofty standards set by such predecessors as Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy. Prior to the start of the 1964 season, the new coach moved no fewer than 17 players to new positions and named a new starting quarterback who had played but 45 minutes in his first two seasons in South Bend and had not won a varsity letter.
Expectations for the 1964 Notre Dame team were anything but high. The Irish did not garner a single vote in the pre-season Associated Press college football poll and were a decided underdog in their season opener at Wisconsin. Which suited Parseghian and his new coaching staff just fine. On a rainy afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium, Notre Dame unveiled a new offensive scheme and an attack-minded defense that few in the college football world saw coming. The Irish dominated every aspect of the game in a 31-7 win that ended with Notre Dame players carrying their new coach off the field.
And the wins kept coming. Over the next eight weeks, Notre Dame posted three shutouts, outscored its opponents by a combined 239-50 and climbed from unranked and unmentioned to the top of the AP poll headed into the final week of the regular season.
Southern California was one of only two teams the Irish had defeated in 1963 (a 17-14 Notre Dame win in South Bend). Once ranked as high as second in the AP poll, the Trojans came to the season finale with a 6-3 record and in need of a win to remain in consideration for a Rose Bowl berth.
The first half belonged to Notre Dame. After Ken Ivan opened the scoring with a 25-yard field goal in the first quarter, quarterback John Huarte – who had been named the 1964 Heisman Trophy winner earlier in the week – threw a 21-yard scoring pass to Jack Snow early in the second period to put the Irish ahead, 10-0. With 1:12 to play in the half, fullback Bill Wolski capped an 11-play drive with a five-yard touchdown run to give Notre Dame a 17-0 halftime lead.
The second half proved to be as dramatic a 30 minutes of football as has ever been played. Southern California took the second half kickoff and marched 66 yards to its first score of the game. Halfback Mike Garrett went the final yard to cut the Irish lead to 17-7.
The Notre Dame offense picked right up where it had left off before intermission, driving inside the Trojans 10-yard line. But as Huarte was looking to make an option pitch to Wolski, USC linebacker Ed Blecksmith knocked the ball loose. John Lockwood recovered to end the Irish scoring threat.
After a USC punt, the Irish marched down the field again. A 12-play drive consumed the final five minutes of the third quarter, with the Irish inside the USC five as the fourth quarter began.
Quickly, Notre Dame was inside the USC one-yard line and poised to regain a three-score lead. On second and goal, fullback Joe Kantor plunged for what appeared to be an Irish touchdown.
But after the play had ended, an official threw his penalty flag high into the air and called holding on Notre Dame left tackle Bob Meeker. The officials had taken six points off the scoreboard for the Irish.
A review of the game film shows that Meeker completely missed his blocking assignment on the play and had fallen straight to the ground. The flag stunned Parseghian and his players and changed the momentum of the game.
Following the penalty, Huarte missed on two passes into the end zone to turn the ball over to USC. Fertig then led the Trojans on an 88-yard scoring drive, finding wide receiver Freddie Hill in the right corner of the end zone from 23 yards out to trim the Notre Dame lead to 17-13 with 5:09 to play.
Southern California’s defense then stopped the Irish on its next possession and forced a punt from the Notre Dame xx. As Jack Snow’s punt went into the air, an official reached for his flag to call holding on offensive guard John Atamian – even though USC had rushed only two players while setting up for a return.
Instead of pinning USC at its own 22, Notre Dame had to punt again. Garrett fielded a short punt at the Trojan xx and brought it back xx yards to the Notre Dame 40. The penalty had cost the Irish 38 yards of field position, putting Southern California in business with 2:12 to play.
Fertig found Hill wide open for another 23-yard play to the Notre Dame 17. Two plays later, the Fertig-to-Hill combination almost resulted in a go-ahead touchdown when Hill caught a pass in the end zone but was ruled out of bounds.
On third and 10, Fertig was pressured by Notre Dame defensive end Alan Page. As Page wrapped up the USC quarterback for a sack, the ball squirted from Fertig’s hands. The referee ruled the play an incomplete pass instead of a fumble or intentional grounding.
Which brought the game down to one play. Southern California coach John McKay called for a play known as “84-Z Delay”. Notre Dame defensive coordinator John Ray called for a blitz.
As Fertig rolled to his left to avoid onrushing linebacker Ken Maglicic, he found wide receiver Rod Sherman coming open over the middle. Sherman made the catch and escaped the reach of defensive back Tony Carey on his way to the end zone. With 1:33 left, USC had taken a 20-17 lead.
Notre Dame would have two more shots at tying or going ahead but eventually ran out of time. The perfect season and the then “mythical” national championship were gone.
In 1988, Parseghian sent a letter to Bob Meeker as Meeker was being honored by his high school in Akron, Ohio (Saint Vincent’s-St. Mary). In that letter, Paresghian made reference to the controversial holding call against Meeker in the 164 Notre Dame-Southern California game and wrote, “Incidentally, we both know that the worst officiating call in the history of college football took place in Los Angeles in 1964. And through this letter, I document for you that Bob Meeker was the innocent victim of an incompetent official. I just thought I would put in writing, for posterity, the facts.”
The Echoes Awakened documentary, which features original interviews with Parseghian, six of the players on the 1964 Notre Dame team – including 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte – and others who were witness to the Fighting Irish’s incredible turnaround. Narrated by Brent Musburger and introduced with a prologue by Coach Lou Holtz, Echoes Awakened also features rare game footage from all 10 of Notre Dame’s 1964 games.
The Echoes Awakened DVD is now available at www.echoesawakened.com, the Hammes Bookstore at the University of Notre Dame, Amazon.com and other retail outlets. The Echoes Awakened DVD contains the one-hour documentary as well as an additional 45 minutes of “bonus content” – including more stories as told by the principals in Resurrection plus highlights of the 1965 rematch between Southern California and Notre Dame (won by the Irish in South Bend, 28-7).
For each copy of the Echoes Awakened DVD that is sold, a contribution will be made to the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation in support of the fight to find a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C Disease — a rare neurodegenerative disorder which causes progressive deterioration of the nervous system and is ultimately fatal. The Foundation was established in 1994 by the Parseghian family after three of Ara Parseghian’s grandchildren were diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C. For more information about the Foundation and its work, visit www.parseghian.org.
“It’s an honor for us to support the efforts of the Parseghian Foundation through this project,” said Flesher. “Coach Parseghian has devoted an amazing amount of his life after football to the Foundation and its work to find a cure for a horrible disease that cost him three of his grandchildren at early ages. We hope our contribution will help support one more step toward that cure.”