Oct. 5, 2012

By Lou Somogyi, Blue & Gold Illustrated

Notre Dame tonight will attempt to preserve two undefeated records. The first is its 4-0 start, the best for the program in 10 years. The second is never having experienced defeat in 11 previous trips to Chicago’s Soldier Field, this year’s site of the Fighting Irish Shamrock Series.

Notre Dame is 9-0-2 all-time at the facility, highlighted by a 3-0 ledger in 1929 when it was used as a home-away-from-home alternative while Notre Dame Stadium was under construction. Head coach Knute Rockne’s “Ramblers” never played on their own campus that season, but still finished 9-0 en route to their second national title.

The University of Miami this year will represent the eighth different foe Notre Dame will have played in Soldier Field

Here is a thumbnail review of the 11 previous Irish games at the venue.

November 22, 1924 Notre Dame 13, Northwestern 6

Six weeks earlier, Oct. 9 to be exact, Municipal Grant Park Stadium was officially dedicated on the 53rd anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. Nine days after that dedication, Notre Dame’s backfield was christened as “The Four Horsemen” by esteemed sports writer Grantland Rice during a 13-7 victory against Army in New York’s Polo Grounds.

The march to Notre Dame’s first consensus national title continued with this hard fought victory over the Wildcats in front of 45,000 spectators. Quarterback Harry Stuhldreher rushed for one touchdown to give Notre Dame a 7-6 halftime lead, and then in the fourth quarter fullback Elmer Layden returned an interception for a 45-yard touchdown.

The next year, the stadium was officially renamed Soldier Field.

November 26, 1927 Notre Dame 7, USC 6

One year after their first meeting in Los Angeles, the two growing superpowers played in front of an astronomical crowd that has been listed unofficially as anywhere from 120,000 to 123,000, but “only” 99,573 were listed as paid. All the scoring occurred in the first 10 minutes and, in what would become a recurring theme at Soldier Field, a missed extra point by the opposition, proved to be the difference in the Irish victory.

USC scored first but a bad snap led to the errant PAT. Notre Dame responded with a play-action touchdown pass in which Charles Riley threw the ball 40 yards in the air to complete a 28-yard touchdown pass to Ray Dahman in the end zone. Dahman kicked the extra point as well for the lead.

Late in the third quarter, the officiating crew overruled what appeared to be a USC safety. Upon further review, it was reported that umpire John Schommer viewed films of the play and admitted he missed the call.

October 13, 1928 Notre Dame 7, Navy 0

The first meeting between the two programs occurred a year earlier in Baltimore — and it hasn’t stopped since. In what would become another tradition decades later, head coach Knute Rockne surprisingly dressed his Fighting Irish in green, possibly to not clash with the Navy blue.

The lone score occurred in the fourth quarter when John Niemiec found John Colrick for a seven-yard touchdown pass. Just like a year earlier against USC, the unofficial attendance was listed at 120,000, but this time there were 103,081 paid.

October 19, 1929 Notre Dame 19, Wisconsin 0

In the first of three Notre Dame games at Soldier Field this season, the Irish scored on three long touchdown runs, 40- and 71-yard touchdown jaunts by fullback “Jumpin’ Joe” Savoldi, and 43 yards in between by halfback Jack Elder, one of the nation’s top sprinters.

Elder’s 100-yard interception return for a score against Army in the finale at Yankee Stadium would clinch the first and last consensus title by a team without playing on its own campus.

November 9, 1929 Notre Dame 19, Drake 7

During the 1920s, the Bulldogs were a power in football. They even received votes in 1922 as the No. 1 team in the College Football Researchers Association poll and were invited to the White House.

They drew first blood in this contest and took a 7-6 lead into the fourth quarter before the Irish rallied to victory with a 16-yard scoring run by Elder and a 22-yard scamper by Larry “Moon” Mullins to clinch the conquest.

November 16, 1929 Notre Dame 13, USC 12

One week after the dogfight with Drake, the Irish were pushed to the brink again in Chicago. Remarkably, in their first three victories against USC from 1926-29, the Trojans missed all five of their extra points in one-point setbacks.

The 6-6 halftime score came about from two missed PATs. Notre Dame’s first series in the third quarter resulted in a one-yard scoring run by Savoldi, followed by Frank Carideo’s conversion. On the ensuing kickoff, USC’s Russell Saunders returned it for a 95-yard touchdown pass — but the conversion missed yet again.

USC drove 60 yards to the Notre Dame 29 late in the game, but the Irish held on to victory to improve to 7-0, two games away from clinching No. 1. The official attendance was listed at 112,912 — the most fans to watch a Notre Dame game until 2011, when Michigan’s first home night game drew 114,804.

November 29, 1930 Notre Dame 7, Army 6

Yet another pulsating one-point triumph helped propel Rockne’s Irish to a third national title, and second in a row.

In front of 110,000 fans and in horrid weather conditions, a scoreless tie was broken on halfback Marchy Schwartz’ dazzling 54-yard TD run with 3:30 left, one of the defining and greatest plays in the program’s history. Carideo’s PAT made it 7-0 — and would prove to be crucial once again.

Army would block an Irish punt to score in the closing minute, but the drop kick for the PAT was blocked, preserving a 7-6 victory.

In the 22 meetings between the two programs from 1925-46, this was the lone contest played in Soldier Field. The other 21 were in New York’s Yankee Stadium.

October 10, 1931 Notre Dame 0, Northwestern 0

In one of the sloppiest Notre Dame games ever, first-year head coach Hunk Anderson’s Irish saw their 20-game winning streak halted in the scoreless affair amidst a downpour.

The two teams fumbled 17 times. Notre Dame recovered six by the Wildcats, picked off two passes, and sophomore Ed “Moose” Krause, a Chicago native, also blocked a field-goal attempt by the Wildcats.

A relatively modest crowd of 65,000 showed up this time, while The Great Depression ravaged the nation.

December 5, 1942 Notre Dame 13, Great Lakes 13

For the second time in school history, the Irish rallied from a 13-0 deficit, although this time it resulted in a tie. The first was the epic 18-13 victory at Ohio State in 1935, voted the greatest college football game during the sport’s centennial year in 1969.

With World War II raging overseas, only 19,225 fans were in attendance for the season finale against the semi-pro Great Lakes Naval Base. Explosive second-half touchdown runs by Corwin Clatt (82 yards) and Creighton Miller (68 yards) knotted the score in the third quarter, but the Irish missed a field goal on the game’s final play to finish 7-2-2 in head coach Frank Leahy’s second season.

Sept. 5, 1992 Notre Dame 42, Northwestern 7

The No. 3-ranked Irish overcame a shaky first half to defeat first-year head coach Gary Barnett’s Wildcats.

An 86-yard Notre Dame drive right before halftime concluded with a two-yard scoring run by tailback Lee Becton for a 14-7 halftime lead. The floodgates open in the third quarter when quarterback Rick Mirer found speedster Mike Miller for a 70-yard score, fullback Jerome Bettis (19 carries, 130 yards) romped for a 24-yard score and tailback Reggie Brooks (nine carries, 157 yards) scampered for a 72-yard touchdown.

Tight end Oscar McBride began and ended the scoring with five-yard TD receptions.

Sept. 3, 1994 Notre Dame 42, Northwestern 15

The starting debut of sophomore quarterback Ron Powlus mesmerized an ABC national television audience in prime time when he completed 18 of his 24 passes for 291 yards and four touchdowns in the romp by the nation’s No. 3 team. The scoring passes were to Derrick Mayes for nine and 36 yards, a 46-yard toss to Mike Miller and a two-yard flip to fullback Ray Zellars.