Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 12, 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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52 NOV. 12, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH ECHOES JIM LEFEBVRE BY JIM LEFEBVRE W hen John Huarte was a teen- ager growing up in California's Orange County, he spent many hours working on his family's citrus ranch. He'd run a truck from one sec- tion to another, checking on the irriga- tion system. On fall Saturday mornings, the truck's radio was tuned to pick up Notre Dame football. In far-away locations like South Bend, East Lansing, West Lafayette, Iowa City, Norman, Pittsburgh and Balti- more, the Fighting Irish were doing bat- tle against the best in the land with Paul Hornung, Nick Pietrosante, Monty Stick- les, and Myron Pottios leading the way. Already a star athlete at Anaheim's Mater Dei High School, Huarte could envision himself playing for the premier Catholic institution in the nation. He headed east, and after freshman foot- ball in 1961 he joined the varsity in 1962 as a reserve quarterback behind starter Daryle Lamonica and completed 4 of 8 passes on the season. As a junior in 1963, Huarte was part of a QB committee, completing 20 of 42 passes for 243 yards. On his only touch- down throw, to Jim Kelly in a 7-6 loss to Purdue, he injured his ankle, which didn't help his bid for more playing time. In the 1963 season review, the Scho- lastic looked ahead to 1964 and opined: "Lack of a consistently good quarter- back could again prevent Notre Dame from having a successful season. John Huarte, Dan McGinn, Sandy Bonvechio, Bill Zloch and Tom Longo all return, but none has significant game experience, and none is a proven signal-caller. Hua- rte is the best passer … any of the group could win the job." But that was before Hugh Devore was replaced as head coach by the dynamic 41-year-old Ara Parseghian, who had guided Northwestern the past eight seasons, winning 36 games, includ- ing four straight against Notre Dame. Parseghian sized up his roster, made a number of position changes, and told Huarte he would be his quarterback. And Jack Snow, Huarte's fellow South- ern Californian who had made just 10 catches in two varsity seasons, would be his primary receiver. A revitalized Irish squad opened the 1964 season at Madison, Wis., pound- ing Wisconsin — Big Ten champs just two seasons earlier — by a 31-7 count. The Huarte-to-Snow combination ex- ploded for 217 yards, including touch- down tosses of 61 and 42 yards. The new-look Irish were on their way. In the home opener vs. Purdue, Hua- rte outdueled the Boilermakers' Bob Griese, firing TD passes to Snow and Nick Rassas while his teammates picked off three Griese aerials. Alan Page re- turned a blocked punt 57 yards for a score as the Irish rolled, 34-15. At Air Force, Huarte scored 2 rushing touch- downs to go along with 2 through the air in a 34-7 win over the Falcons. More one-sided wins followed: 24-0 over UCLA, 28-6 against Stanford and 40-0 vs. Navy. Then came a trip to Pittsburgh, where the 2-3-2 Panthers rose up to give the Irish a battle. From his own end zone, Huarte lofted a pass to Nick Eddy at the Notre Dame 35, and the speedy back took it the distance for a record-setting 91-yard scoring play. Snow's punting continually kept Pitt bottled up in its own end, and the Irish survived with a 17-15 win. Notre Dame then broke a 10-year losing streak to Michigan State, 34-7, with Huarte passing for a score. Later, on a fourth-and-1 from the Spartan 21, with everyone expecting a plunge up the middle, Huarte rolled right and dodged his way to the end zone. In a windy, icy home finale against Iowa, the Irish re- lied on its rushing attack to grind down Iowa, 28-0. All that was left before a possible na- tional championship in this unbelievable turnaround season was a trip to Southern Cal, which had lost to Michigan State, Ohio State and Washington. Huarte hit Snow with a 22-yard scoring strike, but ND was shut out in the second half and USC prevailed 20-17 with the help of some controversial officials' calls. Huarte went from seeing 45 minutes of playing time his entire junior year to becoming the starter and eventual Heisman Trophy winner as a senior, passing for 2,062 yards and 16 touchdowns in 10 games. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS John Huarte's Rags-To-Riches Season Led Remarkable Irish Turnaround In '64

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