Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 25, 2023

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

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54 NOV. 25, 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T hroughout Notre Dame's his- tory, we've heard amusing sto- ries of the elite head coaches having a low threshold for mistakes. One example is upon arriving at Notre Dame in 1986, Lou Holtz told senior quarterback Steve Beuer- lein, who had thrown 10 touchdown passes compared to 31 interceptions the two previous seasons, that he promised he would not toss more than 7 interceptions under his guid- ance. That's because after the seventh one, Beuerlein's rear end would be ensconced on the bench. Indeed, after Beuerlein tossed his seventh pick that season — which USC's Lou Brock Jr. returned for a touchdown early in the game — he was removed from the lineup by Holtz. Frequently not told is, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story." Realizing Beuerlein still provided the best chance to win while the Irish fell behind 37-20, Holtz reinserted him in the 38-37 comeback win. The moral of the story was while a coach can be firm, he also is going to be realistic. Because current senior quarterback Everett Golson had been a part of 17 turnovers in the six games from Syra- cuse (Sept. 27) through Arizona State (Nov. 8), head coach Brian Kelly and his staff have been cited as anywhere from over-tolerant to weak because of the refusal to sit Golson even temporarily as a reminder that the volume of mishaps is unacceptable. That's not necessarily an unfair cri- tique, but Kelly and Co. also recognize where their bread is buttered. Trailing 34-3 at ASU, they realized Golson was still the centerpiece of any comeback chances … and darned if the Irish weren't on the cusp of their greatest comeback ever at 34-31 with only 6:37 left before faltering. Also bemusing is that despite his recent proclivity of not protecting the football, Golson stands fourth on Notre Dame's all-time chart for lowest interception percentage (minimum 150 attempts) at 2.61 — just ahead of No. 5 Dayne Crist (2.66), who did get benched by Kelly. No. 1 is Jimmy Clausen — the same Clausen who tossed 17 interceptions in his second season of starting (2008). Not even in the top 10 are luminaries such as Heisman Trophy winners Angelo Bertelli, John Lujack and John Huarte, Hall of Famers Bob Williams and Ralph Guglielmi, and national title winners such as Terry Hanratty, Joe Theismann, Tom Clements, Joe Montana and Tony Rice. As a junior in 1967, Hanratty tossed 15 interceptions in just 206 throws (7.3 percent), while Theismann in his junior year was picked off 16 times in only 192 attempts (8.3 percent) — and that was with superior running attacks. Theismann's most legendary game is one where he threw for 526 yards but also threw 4 interceptions and lost a fumble in his own end zone during a 38-28 loss to the Trojans. Montana's most remembered game at Notre Dame is when he completed only 13 of 34 throws with 4 interceptions and a lost fumble — a 35-34 win over Hous- ton in the Cotton Bowl. With a much more media-infiltrated and paralysis-by-analysis 24-hours news society, all mistakes are mag- nified today. In 1952 with one of the great back- fields in college football history — all four starters were top-10 NFL picks, led by 1953 Heisman winner John Lattner — Notre Dame still fumbled 57 times. Would we consider Frank "The Master" Leahy a soft and tol- erant coach today because of those miscues? Of those 57 fumbles, "only" 29 were lost, 5 of them by Lattner in a victory at Purdue. Meanwhile, the passing attack featuring Col- lege Football Hall of Fame member Guglielmi, tossed 15 interceptions in only 197 attempts. That resulted in 44 turnovers during the 10-game season. After the Purdue win, Leahy handed Lattner a football with strict instructions. "He said, 'If I see you around campus without this football, you'll lose your scholarship here at Notre Dame,'" Lattner said. "One of my teammates put a handle on the football to make it a little easier to carry around. I did that for a whole week. I went to classes with it, slept with it … I did ev- erything he wanted me to do." Cute story, but it didn't solve all the problems. The Irish lost a school-record 7 fumbles in a 21-3 loss later that year to national champ Michigan State. And even during the unbeaten 1953 cam- paign the following year, Notre Dame fumbled "only" 37 times and lost 19. The 1977 national champs, who have always been so perfect in my romanti- cized imagination with Montana, fum- bled 34 times (losing 25) and tossed 14 interceptions. It helped that the Notre Dame defense forced 52 that same year. Mistakes will always be with us, just like original sin. Working on limiting or overcoming them remains eternal. ✦ BEST OF THE FIFTH QUARTER ✦ LOU SOMOGYI ✦ NOV. 24, 2014 Mistakes Remain Eternal In An Imperfect World EDITOR'S NOTE: The late, great Lou Somogyi possessed an unmatched knowledge of Notre Dame football, and it was his mission in life to share it with others. Those of us at Blue & Gold Illustrated would like to continue to provide his wis- dom and unique perspective from his more than 37 years covering the Fighting Irish for this publication. Even the 1977 national champs, led by quarterback Joe Montana (above), turned the ball over 39 times (25 fumbles and 14 interceptions). PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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