Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 4, 2023

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

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52 NOV. 4, 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH ECHOES JIM LEFEBVRE N otre Dame makes its third-ever visit to Death Valley on Saturday, meet- ing Clemson and continuing its long-standing tradition of taking on big- time intersectional opponents, whenever and wherever the occasion arises. A century ago this fall, the Irish made a trip East that was monumental at the time, to meet college football blueblood and defending national champion Princeton. The Tigers had played in the first game in the history of the sport in 1869 and had never strayed from the top echelon of the game in the decades that followed. Their 1922 championship was the 25th national title for the school. It included a thrilling 21-18 comeback victory over Amos Alonzo Stagg's University of Chi- cago Maroons in a titanic battle of "East vs. West" — the first-ever football game broadcast nationally on radio. The Ti- gers also topped their Big Three rivals Harvard (10-3) and Yale (3-0) in front of crowds exceeding 50,000. It was a huge scheduling coup when athletics director Knute Rockne secured a game with the Tigers for Oct. 20, 1923, at Palmer Stadium in Princeton, N.J. For a $5,000 guarantee, but no split of the expected large gate, the Irish would get to take on a bedrock of the Ivy League and Protestant establishment — a major boon to Notre Dame's national prestige, school officials felt. The timing wasn't ideal, though. The date that Princeton was available — Oct. 20 — would come just one week after Notre Dame was scheduled to play Army at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field. And rather than allow the team to spend the inter- vening days in the New York/New Jersey area, the powers that be at Notre Dame insisted Rockne's men return to campus for three days of in-person classes before turning around and heading back East. It would seem impossible to get ready for such a major challenge in that time frame. But, it turned out, Rockne had his men well prepared to take on coach Bill Roper's vaunted Tigers. The wily Irish coach had seen to that in the spring of 1923. Rockne respected his other ma- jor opponents — such as Army, Georgia Tech and Nebraska. But, from spring practice on, he made it clear Prince- ton was the game to win. Whenever he made a point about a tactical issue, the opponent would be Princeton. Every day during spring practice, Rockne conducted a half-hour lecture in a classroom in the Main Building. One week, he decided to guide his play- ers through a mythical game with the Tigers, describing the conditions: who had the ball and where, the down, yards to go, the wind conditions, time left to play, what type of defense was shown. He would ask someone in the class to call the play. The coach would then decide the result of the play, based on whether or not he agreed with the call. In this way, he kept every team mem- ber sharp with an outlook on all the as- pects that played into the game. Rockne knew enough of Princeton's system, players and tendencies, that he was us- ing the exercise to prepare the Irish for what they were likely to face in late Oc- tober at Palmer Stadium. When the time came, the Irish headed to Princeton weary of train travel, yet energized by their 13-0 triumph over Army a week earlier. Aside from a punt On Oct. 20, 1923, Notre Dame headed East to take on defending national champion Princeton and demolished the Tigers 25-2 at Palmer Stadium. PHOTO COURTESY KNUTE ROCKNE MEMORIAL SOCIETY 100 Years Ago, Knute Rockne's Irish Took On The Biggest Name In Football

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