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Notre Dame-Oklahoma 1957: A Lesson for the Irish in 2012?



With Notre Dame about to embark on what they hope is another Norman conquest against Oklahoma, it’s good for ND fans to recall a previous ND-OU contest (courtesy of the New York Times) in which none of the pundits gave the underdog Irish even a fighting chance. My comments are in italics.

Irish Spoil the Sooners’ Party

“November 16, 1957 NORMAN, Okla. (AP) – Oklahoma’s record streak of forty-seven football victories was ended today by a Notre Dame team that marched 80 yards in the closing minutes for a touchdown and a 7-0 triumph. Oklahoma, ranked No. 2 in the nation and an 18-point favorite, couldn’t move against the rock-wall Notre Dame line and the Sooners saw another of its streaks shattered-scoring in 123 consecutive games.”

What the New York Times account does “not” tell us is that Notre Dame had just lost its last two games, including a 34-6 thumping by Michigan State the week before…not to mention they had been walloped by the Sooners 40-0 the previous season.

“The defeat was only the ninth for the Oklahoma coach, Bud Wilkinson, since he became head coach at Oklahoma in 1947. It virtually ended any chance for the Sooners of getting a third straight national championship.”

The funny thing is that “this” year, the fifth-ranked Irish are actually ranked ahead of the eighth-ranked Sooners and thus have a better shot at the national title than Oklahoma, but an OU offense that has averaged 52 points a game in its last three, has overshadowed the Irish “D.”

“The smashing, rocking Notre Dame line didn’t permit the Sooners to get started either on the ground…only 98 yards…or in the air…only 47.”

Actually, Oklahoma got to the Irish 13 on its opening drive, but that was as close as they got.

“Notre Dame, paced by its brilliant, 210-pound fullback Nick Pietrosante, rolled up 169 yards on the ground. In the air, the Irish [with] Bob Williams passing, gained 79 yards by hitting nine of twenty…”

Also quite similar to several 2012 Irish victories, the 1957 version had a chance to put the game away in the second quarter but were stopped by Oklahoma on a red zone interception and a failed fourth-and-goal at the one.

“Notre Dame’s touchdown drive, biting off short but consistent yardage against the Sooners…carried from the 20 after an Oklahoma punt went into the end zone. Time after time, Pietrosante picked up the necessary yards he needed as the Irish smashed through the Oklahoma line.”

A great Notre Dame defense and a relentless Irish running game. Sound familiar?

“Notre Dame moved to the 8 and the Sooners [attempted] to make…their third goal-line stand of the day. Pietrosante smashed four yards through center and Dick Lynch was stopped for no gain. On third down, Williams went a yard through center. Then Lynch crossed up the Sooners and rolled around his right end to score standing up.”

Not unlike George Atkinson‘s end run touchdown against BYU, eh?

“Monty Stickles converted to give Notre Dame the upset and end collegiate football’s longest winning streak…as the partisan, sellout crowd of 62,000 [who] came out for a Roman holiday…were stunned into silence when the Sooners were unable to pull their usual last quarter winning touchdowns—a Wilkinson team trademark.

“After Notre Dame scored with 3:50 left, the 1957 Sooners had time for one more drive, but Williams intercepted a pass in the end zone [Danny Spond, anyone?] to seal the game.

“Notre Dame was the last team to beat Oklahoma, at the start of the 1953 season on the same field that it smothered the Sooners today. Then coach Frank Leahy’s Irish beat Oklahoma, 28-21. Then the Sooners set sail through forty-seven games until Terry Brennan’s Irish stopped the string today.”

If its 125-year football history has shown anything, it’s that Notre Dame is at its best when it is an underdog—”and” also has a great defense.

“As the game ended when Oklahoma’s desperation passing drive was cut off by an intercepted aerial, the crowd rose as one and suddenly gave the Notre Dame team a rousing cheer.”

An interesting historical footnote, one I’m not expecting the rabid (read, “We hate Notre Dame!”) 2012 Sooner fans to repeat if Notre Dame prevails Saturday. And yet, the Michigan State fans joined in a post-game cheer for Manti Te’o, so if the inspiring Hawaiian with seemingly universal appeal can lead this year’s Irish squad to another improbable victory, one never knows…

Related: Oh Boy, Danny! Spond Responds for Our Lord and Notre Dame

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