When old friend Charley Strong leads his Longhorns onto the field at Notre Dame Stadium, it will be the 11th time Texas and Notre Dame have played.
The series had a surprisingly early start as the Irish first played Texas in 1913, winning in Austin 30-7. Knute Rockne was on that Irish team and perhaps got a nice taste of traveling to play. The Irish had drawn first blood.
The teams played four more times between then and ’54, with the
Irish losing only the ’34 game, 7-6 in South Bend. That game occurred during Notre Dame’s “Dark Ages” the interregnum between Rockne and Leahy. The series stood at Notre Dame 4-Texas 1 and it seemed like a historical footnote.
Then in the late 60’s three personalities impacted both a change in Notre Dame policies regarding postseason play and brought the mothballed ND-Texas series into a brave new world.
Ara was close with athletic Director Moose Krause and Ara wanted to compete on the field in a bowl game for the National Championship. Moose had played football and basketball at Notre Dame and he was a “players and coaches” athletic director, unlike the MBA types that now inhabit most athletic directors offices in America.
Ara had had quite enough of the de riguer anti-Notre Dame vitriol after the 1966 Notre Dame National Championship earned with late season, EPIC 10-10 tie with Michigan State and a 51-0 stomping of Rose Bowl Champ USC in the Coliseum.
It made sense to the competitive Krause and he prevailed on the Hesburgh/Joyce axis to once again consider allowing Notre Dame to play in a bowl. Notre Dame had played in only one bowl, but it was an dandy! Knute Rockne and the Four Horsemen bested Pop Warner, Ernie Nevers and Stanford 27-10 in the Rose Bowl following the 1924 season.
Hoss Brock of the Cotton Bowl, a garrulous guy with a Texas twang as syrupy and sweet as molasses, sent Krause a cowboy hat, big one, all of ten gallons. Moose, with that huge Chicago stockyard of a face, loved wearing it.
And so, the Irish ended their 45 year hiatus from bowl participation and agreed to take on Darrell Royal and his top ranked Longhorns, ranked #1 and unbeaten in the ’69 regular season. Texas was only challenged once, in a thrilling 15-14 win over Arkansas up in the hills in Fayetteville, a game attended by President Richard Milhous Nixon.
One humorous moment occurred during the coaches’ press conferences during Cotton Bowl week. Ara gave his usual intricate, lengthy, polite deferential answers to the assembled reporters. When Royal, the native of Hollis Oklahoma, took his turn on the podium, he answered a question regarding whether he would tweak his wishbone offense. He quickly responed “Naw, we’ll dance with the one whut brung us.”
The game in “neutral” Dallas was thrilling and the Irish were more than up to the task. But a riverboat gambler named James “Slick” Street played quarterback for Texas. He had been the hero of the comeback win at Arkansas. Slick Street engineered a late drive, made a key pass to Cotton Speyrer and then halfback Biilly Dale punched it in from close range to give Texas a 21-17 win and the National Championship.
Notre Dame found the experience, but for the narrow loss, exhilarating. The television executives swooned as they found the Nielsen ratings even more exhilarating and Notre Dame would never lack for bowl suitors again.
The Irish were invited back the following year, for a rematch, once again in “neutral” Dallas. The Horns got an early 3-0 lead from a Happy Feller field goal, but the Irish offense then ruthlessly ran off the next 21 points for a Bevo-Busting 21-3 lead. The die was cast and it was Golden and not burn Orange. Final score: ND 24-Texas 11.
The Irish next were selected to play the sacrificial lamb for a Texas National Championship after the ’77 season. The Irish had lost an insipid game to Ole Miss early in the season and were ranked 5th before the Bowl Game.
Texas had everything going for them. They were unbeaten, and only Oklahoma and Arkansas had put up even token resistance. They had the Tyler Rose, Earl Campbell who had won the Heisman Trophy. They supported him with Johnny “Lam” Jones, from Lampassas in the Hill Country near Austin, Johnny “Ham” Jones from Hamlin in the dry plains of West Texas, and AJ “Jam” Jones from Youngstown Ohio. Texas was also bringing Brad Shearer, the Outland Trophy winner, who had keyed the three shutouts the Horns defense had put up. Steve “Bam-Bam” McMichael was his sidekick. Shearer had much to say the week before the game. Irish Offensive Guard Ernie Hughes a quiet Idahoan from Boise, said little but his blood was boiling.
The Texas exes marched to the Cotton Bowl for something more akin to a coronation that a football game, but the Irish imposed a crown of thorns on Akers, Campbell, Lam, Ham and Jam and Hughes made Spam out of Shearer.
Poor Irish! All they had was Montana, Ferguson, Heavens, Ernie Hughes and Browner, Fry, Golic and Bradley. Early in the game, Browner announced his presence by deftly batting a Randy McEachern lateral to the Cotton Bowl turf and recovering it. The game was barely two minutes old but it was an ominous play.
There is a syndrome in college football that occurs occasionally and blends the thrill of victory with the agony of defeat. It is when a visiting team hears a home, or home-state, crowd raucous at the beginning. Then the sound becomes more muted, and eventually there is silence, when fans slump in their seat and their eyes grow moist. Little by little, you look up and see empty seats in what was a scalper’s paradise of a packed house. Then vast wedges of blue and white seat sections of the Cotton Bowl, without a pixel of burnt orange.
The Irish moved to a 24-3 lead and there was no joy for Texas.. It ended 38-10 and Fred Akers, and for that matter the Ernie Hughes-dominated Brad Shearer were never heard from again.
There were two more games, one in South Bend in _’95 when the Irish shut down another Texas Heisman trophy winner, Ricky William, 55-27.
The following year in Austin, current Notre Dame running back coach Autry Denson had his most shining moment, punching in a courageous late run to tie the game with three minutes left. Am even later Sanson field goal gave the Irish a 27-24 win.
Yes, seven of the series’ ten games have been played in the Lone Star State, where the Horns have a LONE win. We are ND. We will continue to mess with Texas whenever we feel like it.
Notre Dame vs. Texas Series History
|Season||Site||Result||Notre Dame Rank||Texas Rank|
|1913||Away||W, 30-7||No Poll||No Poll|
|1915||Away||W, 36-7||No Poll||No Poll|
|1934||Home||L, 6-7||No Poll||No Poll|
|1969||Cotton Bowl||L, 17-21||9||1|
|1970||Cotton Bowl||W, 24-11||6||1|
|1977||Cotton Bowl||W, 38-10||5||1|