Friday, October 07, 2005

1977 | by Pat

From 1966 to 1982, Southern Cal was a force in the college football world, and during that period, Notre Dame only beat the Trojans three times. However, each time the Fighting Irish did triumph over the team from California -- in 1966, 1973, and 1977 -- ND went on to win the national championship. And among those games, the '77 matchup still remains as one of the most storied games in Irish history: the Green Jersey game.

According to Irish Legends, the origin of the idea went back to Devine's early days on campus:

Coach Devine had gotten the idea from a letter amidst the huge stack of mail waiting on his desk his first day at Notre Dame: a former student manager under Frank Leahy wanted to see the Irish wear green again. The new coach was intrigued by the notion and kept it in mind. Two-and-a-half years later he would use it with maximum possible effect.
Here's how Sports Illustrated described the scene on game day.
Observers could see it building all week. On Monday and Tuesday the Irish practiced with such vigor that the coaches had to ease up the drills to prevent mayhem. On Wednesday, after an excellent workout, the taciturn Devine became almost loquacious as he told his team, "I think we could grab ourselves a drink of Nutrament and play them under the lights right now and win."

Then on the day before the game the players found their tennis coach, Tom Fallon, in their dressing room - to sing a few Irish ballads. But definitely not lighthearted ditties like When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. Instead, he sang The Wearin' of' the Green, a song that laments, "They're hangin' men and women for the wearin'of the green."

Devine had only just begun. Unknown to all but a few intimates, he had ordered green jerseys for the wearin' on Saturday - the first time the Fighting Irish had donned such shirts since 1963. The players who warmed up in their conventional dark blue jerseys, didn't know of the ploy until they were handed their starting game shirts back in the locker room moments before the kickoff. When Notre Dame came onto the field, the crowd of 59,075 erupted into startled cheers and Southern Cal started checking to see if it was in the right stadium.

Notre Dame throttled the 5th-ranked Trojans 49-19, ended up winning the rest of their games, and then beat #1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl to claim the National Championship.

And that's the Green Jersey game. Accept no substitutes.

The game was notable in a couple of other important ways, too.

Check out this photo of Joe Montana at the line of scrimmage.
Now look a little closer. Who's that?

Yep, it's Charlie, who was a senior at the time. There he is, soaking in the game like a sponge, no doubt second-guessing Devine (along with every other Irish fan in the stands).

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It

When the 1977 game against Southern Cal is mentioned, the green jerseys are always remembered as the best "surprise" of the game. There was another one, though: a giant Trojan Horse.

In the earlier video clip you could see how the Trojan Horse was wheeled around the north endzone before setting up against the tunnel.

Suddenly, the front burst open and the Fightin' Irish football team poured out onto the field, running down the tunnel and through the horse, ready to take their pound of flesh from the Trojans.

Attention current students: you've got to do this again. Who knows the next time we'll have a #1 Southern Cal invading our campus. Two years from now, Leinart and Bush will be in the NFL, and Pete Carroll will be going 3-13 as coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Now's the chance.

The game's only 8 days from now, so some enterprising students need to jump on this right away. Some of you engineers get going with the blueprints, marketing majors help spread the word, and get some Arts & Letters types to start penning some epic poems to commemorate the event. To help give the project a jumpstart, here's a preliminary blueprint you can use that we whipped up over a few beers last night. Hopefully it's not too technical.

Just imagine that behemoth appearing out of the tunnel in front of 80,000+ screaming Notre Dame fans. Slowly, it's wheeled around the field. Perhaps Pete Carroll will welcome the Horse as a gift to his coaching greatness and allow it to remain, despite Matt Laoco├Ân's, I mean Leinart's, wariness. The preening Trojans, drunk on self-flattery and inflated egos, laugh and point, congratulating each other: yet another foe has fled the field before the battle's even begun.

Then, without warning, the trap is sprung: the ramp flies open, and what seems like a thousand wild Irishmen come pouring out. Lendale and Reggie bolt in fear; the Poodle soils himself. The rout of the mighty Trojans is on.

Students, let's make this happen.