Oct. 20, 2006
By Lou Somogyi
Although he is more renowned for his NFL career while playing for Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers dynasty of the 1960s, Paul Hornung’s college career had plenty of memorable moments as well, despite a 2-8 record his senior year.
Here were five of them:
5) Sept. 22, 1956: SMU 19, Notre Dame – In an 87-degree night game at Dallas to open the season, Hornung became the first Irish quarterback ever to run for more than 100 yards and pass for more than 100 yards in the same game.
Hornung carried 11 times for 101 yards, highlighted by a 57-yard touchdown run off a fake punt in which he faked a pitchout while eluding defenders. He also completed five of his nine pass attempts for 113 yards, featuring a 55-yard scoring toss to Jim Morse on a fly pattern. The duo connected again on a 37-yard pass to the Mustang seven as time ran out. Hornung added five tackles in that game.
The 100-100 effort of Hornung has been matched only three other times at Notre Dame. In a 42-14 victory over Stanford in 1988, Tony Rice completed 11 of 14 tosses for 129 yards and carried 14 times for 107 yards.
Jarious Jackson achieved the feat twice. The first was during a 35-17 victory over Stanford in 1998, when he completed 11-of-15 passes for 163 yards and rushed 18 times for 100 yards. The second came in a 34-30 comeback win versus Oklahoma in 1999, when Jackson completed 15-of-21 tosses for 276 yards and ran 15 times for 107 yards.
4) Nov. 17, 1956: Notre Dame 21, North Carolina 14 – In his final home game, Hornung scored all 21 Irish points on three short touchdown runs and also booted all three extra points. The Irish senior completed four passes for 103 yards, ran for 91 yards on 18 carries, intercepted a pass and punted three times for a 39-yard average.
On the game-winning 63-yard drive with 5:54 left, Hornung played halfback because he had suffered a twisted thumb that made him unable to pass. Still he carried several times on the 14-play drive, including the game-winning TD from one-yard out with 1:16 remaining.
The student body carried Hornung off the field, and the north goal posts came down, celebrating the end of a five-game losing streak.
3) Nov. 26, 1955: USC 42, Notre Dame 20 – The season-ending loss dropped Notre Dame to 8-2 and No. 9 in the final polls, but it may have been the best coaching job of Terry Brennan, who was using only about 16 players at the end of the season for an injury-ridden squad.
Hornung passed for a career-high 259 yards, rushed for 95, made six tackles, intercepted one pass and broke up another while cutting the deficit to 21-20 before the dam broke. His 354 yards of total offense were the most in a college game that season. Notre Dame doubled USCs yardage but lost the game.
“It was the craziest game you ever saw,” Brennan said. “We went down the field twice for good, long drives, got to the one-yard line of Southern Cal and fumbled the ball in the end zone. We hit passes to guys standing in the end zone, and they dropped them two times…Kids who year long never fumbled or dropped passes did that day.
“The following January, when the NCAA had its convention, they wanted to show movies of that game, they couldn’t believe it.”
2) Oct. 29, 1955: Notre Dame 21, Navy 7 – One year earlier as a sophomore, Hornung clinched the victory over Navy by intercepting a pass at his own 17 in the closing minutes.
Since that game, Navy had embarked on a nine-game winning streak and entered Notre Dame Stadium ranked No. 4 in the country. Not only did the Midshipmen feature the nation’s No. 1 defense but also the No. 1 rated quarterback in pass efficiency – future College Hall of Fame inductee as a head coach, George Welsh.
Yet it was Hornung who stole the show in the rain. In the second quarter, Welsh drove Navy into the Irish red zone before Hornung picked off a Welsh toss at the four-yard line. Later, Hornung ran for seven yards on fourth-and-six, scampered for another first down and scored to give the Irish a 7-0 halftime lead.
In the second half, Hornung recovered a fumble that set up Notre Dame’s second touchdown, and then intercepted another Welsh pass to set up the third Irish touchdown, a 15-yard toss from Hornung to Gene Kapish.
1) Nov. 19, 1955: Notre Dame 17, Iowa 14 – Perhaps in no game was Hornung’s all-around prowess – offense, defense, special teams – better showcased than in this victory over the Hawkeyes, a nemesis of the Irish during the 1950s.
Trailing at home, 14-7, with less than 10 minutes left in the contest, Hornung returned Iowa’s kickoff 38 yards and then completed three passes for 47 yards, the final 16 to Jim Morse in the far corner of the end zone. Hornung then kicked the extra point to knot the score at 14.
After being part of a defensive stop, Hornung converted a third-and-11 situation with another completion to Morse. On fourth down from the Iowa 3, the Irish were penalized 15 yards for “coaching from the sidelines” when a kicking tee was thrown on the field to prepare for a field goal.
Hornung kicked the game winner anyway – one of only two field goals he made at Notre Dame despite kicking 66 during his NFL career – with 2:15 remaining. Just as it would a year later against North Carolina, the Irish student body carried Hornung off the field as Notre Dame improved to 8-1.
History also was made when the students tore down the goal posts for the first time in the Stadium’s 25-year history.