Terence Patrick Brennan, the child prodigy of football coaches, nibbled a hamburger and allowed as how his Notre Dame team is cruising down a bumpy road indeed. "Michigan State one week," he muttered with something like a fearful sigh, "and Oklahoma next. And we have to play 'em with sophomores."
Apple-cheeked 28-year-old Terence Patrick, who looks lean enough to suit up for the Oklahoma joust (and wishes he could), admits that his injury-ridden team is somewhat in the position of a stalled Volkswagen on the Union Pacific's main line. He can see Oklahoma coming, but he does not know what to do about it. As Brennan says: "Oklahoma may not be the greatest team in the history of college football, but then again it may. And they'll be out to prove it against us."
This is not to say that the handsome Brennan has given up. "Oh, we have plenty of plans," he points out. "Like defense, for instance. We're a raw team playing an experienced team and, under those conditions, defense is everything. A green team can beat an experienced team if it's willing to gamble—throw the long pass, try the old razzle-dazzle. But before you can get fancy, you've got to have the ball. And to get the ball you've got to have a good defense." The size of Brennan's problem will be apparent to the vast TV audience Saturday, when the Oklahoma-Notre Dame game will be on everybody's set.
For three weeks, Brennan has had Backfield Coach Bernie Witucki scouting Oklahoma, and Witucki has been filing some awesome reports. The gist of Witucki's information: good run, good block, good pass, good kick, good defense. "They may have a weakness," says Brennan, "but we sure can't figure out what it is. They use the split-T to perfection and, when you have veteran players running the split-T, you have a mighty thing indeed. Now they've started throwing in an unbalanced line and the single wing, and that's made them even tougher."
October 29, 1956
Brennan rates Wilkinson as a "great coach," but he also notes that Wilkinson has a few advantages going for him. "They have 17 men back from their first two teams of last year," his lament continues. "A team that went undefeated while it was still learning. They're now a polished unit, which means that if they could improve on an unbeaten record, they would. A team as good as Oklahoma is made even better by its own momentum. The regulars don't have to play 60 minutes of brutal football every game, and the reserves get a good practice session every Saturday. Why, Bud is lining up his next year's starting team in the middle of every season—he can afford to."
Brennan drained a glass of milk and lit a long cigaret.
"We have something going for us, too," he said. "For years, everybody's been talking about the psychological advantage other teams have when they play us. They had nothing to lose and everything to gain when they played us.... Oklahoma is in a funny position. If they lose or just barely squeak by, you'll hear that old story: 'Oklahoma builds its record against mediocre teams.' So they'll be out to beat us by 10 touchdowns... . That's the way we want it to be. I'm not saying we're confident, but we're not exactly depressed, either."
Brennan stubbed out his cigaret and headed for the practice field. "Say, wasn't that Terry Brennan?" a counterman asked. "Yeah," said another. "It shouldn't happen to such a nice guy."
A NEW PERSPECTIVE: OKLAHOMA
1 Football manikins—a completely new technique developed by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S art department—here demonstrate three stages in one of the key plays of Oklahoma's explosive split-T offense, which Notre Dame will have to solve this Saturday. The play takes form as Quarterback Jimmy Harris (15), taking the ball from center, wheels and pitches out to Halfback Tommy McDonald (25), a brilliant runner and deft passer. The play poses a nearly impossible problem to the left corner back on defense (44), who cannot stop both pass and run.
2 Now comes the awful decision for No. 44. Thomas (35) is cutting behind him, an obviously tempting target should McDonald pass. The Oklahoma right end, Bell (83) has gone into the deep back's territory. Harris (15) has come on from his quarterback post to block ahead of McDonald. The problem: should No. 44 come up fast to stop the run or stay with Thomas to guard against the pass? Whatever he does must be done unhesitatingly.
3 Here No. 44 has made up his mind and, inevitably, he is wrong. Moving up fast to handle McDonald's running, he has had to abandon Thomas, who is wide open, too far away for the linebacker (65) to catch. If the pass is completed then Thomas will have the blocking of the deep end, Bell (83) on the safety man to open the path for a long run. Had No. 44 stayed back, McDonald would have run behind the convoy provided by Harris (15).
VETERANS ARE OKLAHOMA'S STRENGTH
Strong, wise, and incredibly fast, the Sooner line will get the jump on the opposition both offensively and defensively. Linebacker Jerry Tubbs is probably the best at his trade in the nation; Tackle Ed Gray the same. The second unit is only a whisper less efficient than the seven starters, the next two units are good, too.
89 DON STILLER
73 ED GRAY
68 JOE OUJESKY
53 JERRY TUBBS
Tommy McDonald is as close to a sure bet for All-America as any halfback in college ball; and his running mate, Clendon Thomas, is rated even better by some scouts. Fullback Billy Pricer is a great linebacker, a deadly blocker and a thumping runner; Quarterback Jimmy Harris operates a potent T with skill and élan.
25 TOMMY McDONALD
43 BILLY PRICER
35 CLENDON THOMAS
15 JIMMY HARRIS
A NEW PERSPECTIVE: NOTRE DAME
1 Here the football manikins show how Notre Dame—also a split-T team, but poor as Paddy's pig in experience—concentrates its offense around the versatile talents of its greatest asset: Quarterback Paul Hornung, who can run, pass and block with tremendous skill (see page 32). At the start of this play, Hornung (5) receives the ball from center and takes a quick step to his right to make the defense move in that direction, then fakes a handoff to his fullback, who is starting a wide sweep to the right, trailed by the left halfback. The right half is flanked.
2 Hornung (5) has completed his fake, tucked ball on his left hip and begun a leisurely canter away from the developing action. Fullback Jim Just (44) and Halfback Aubrey Lewis (23) are still faking right, and End Gary Myers (82) begins his move parallel to Hornung. The flanked half, Jim Morse (17), is going straight downfield to take the deep defense with him and End Dick Royer (84) is pulling defenders from the potential pass area.
3 Now the play has developed and Hornung decides to throw, protected by the blocking of the right guard (68), who pulled out of the line. He finds right end Myers (82) cutting rapidly into the area vacated by the defensive players who are covering Morse (deep) and Royer (shallow). He might have run in this situation, and sometimes he does, but the pass thrown here is the usual riposte to this reaction of defense which has been decoyed neatly.
SOPHOMORES ARE IRISH PROBLEM
Youngsters are notoriously apt to chase ducks in football—especially on defense. The Irish line has sophomores at both ends and both tackles. The middle—Center Ed Sullivan and Guards Gene Hedrick and Bob Gaydos—are all capable juniors. So the wise opponent only feints at the middle and aims his big guns outside.
84 DICK ROYER
66 FRANK GEREMIA
65 GENE HEDRICK
52 ED SULLIVAN
When you talk of the Notre Dame backs, you start with Paul Hornung, an incomparable quarterback who can—and must—do everything. At halfback, Aubrey Lewis is fleet, good on defense; Jim Morse is a fine receiver and slashing runner. Fullback Jim Just can run with power but is subject to a sophomore's normal naiveté.
23 AUBREY LEWIS
44 JIM JUST
17 JIM MORSE
5 PAUL HORNUNG