All last week as Notre Dame prepared to settle a score with Purdue, Ara Parseghian was careful to speak softly when in the vicinity of Terry Hanratty. "I want to be casual, to be relaxed," Parseghian explained. "I don't want to get him nervous like me." It was not easy, because Parseghian is the Notre Dame football coach and he is also a chatty fellow with impressible nerve endings. As he talked he had the popeyed look of a man who was holding his breath.
Hanratty is Notre Dame's new quarterback. His uniform number is 5, which used to be the number of Paul Hornung, the famous swinger. In the 11 years since Hornung, Notre Dame has not had an outstanding sophomore quarterback. Hanratty is from Butler, Pa. Butler is 20 miles up the pike from Beaver Falls, Pa., which is Joe Willie Namath's home town. Joe Willie is another outstanding swinger. Hanratty used to watch Namath play high school football and always wanted to grow up to pass just like him.
Compared to swingers like Hornung and Namath, Terrence Hugh Hanratty is stationary. Terry Hugh is 18 years old. He has soft eyes and sunken cheeks and a reputation for being a lamb. When he is sitting down he has a tentative look about him, as if you could remove his chair without altering his position.
But Notre Dame picks up the tab for Hanratty's education not to have him sit down or to swing but to have him stand up and throw footballs. In the final days of what the guard at the Notre Dame gate called "superclosed" practices for Purdue, Ara Parseghian could not believe the way Terry Hanratty was throwing the football. What was more, he could not believe the way another sophomore, James Patrick Seymour, split end, Berkley Mich., age 19, was catching the football. The way Parseghian told it, the two were enough to give teenagers a good name.
The thing was, last year Notre Dame had a rosewater passing attack to go with its strong running, and on more than a few occasions the opposition had found out what Parseghian knew to be true. "On third down nine we were in jail," he said.
Hanratty and Seymour presented Parseghian with the chance to reestablish the kind of offense he had in 1964, when John Huarte was throwing touchdown passes to Jack Snow. There was a snag, though. Hanratty and Seymour had never played a game for Notre Dame, not even as freshmen, because the Irish do not play a freshman schedule. That meant that in the match-up of quarterbacks with Purdue, it would be rookie Hanratty against All-America Bob Griese, a brilliant performer who had started 22 straight games and had never once looked anything less than terrifying. The job he did on Notre Dame last year—19 of 22 passes for 283 yards, and the winning touchdown in the final seconds of a 25-21 game—was remembered with pain around South Bend.
It was doubtful, therefore, that the Notre Dame defense would be anywhere but up for the game. "The coaches do not have to say a thing to get us ready for Griese," said Tackle Pete Duranko. The next big job, then, was to keep Hanratty calm, and of course there was no way to do that—big opening game, big rivalry, national television. Pressure, pressure, pressure.
Finally, there was that night-before concession Notre Dame makes to hysterics, the pep rally. Since Parseghian came to launch what is advertised on lapel pins as THE NEW ARA [sic] IN NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL, Notre Dame pep rallies have become happenings. Parseghian clears his throat and 6,000 people cheer. Human pyramids are built and often collapse spectacularly, as the last man up rips open his shirt to reveal a huge green tattoo on his chest: IRISH. They shout, "Ara, Ara, Ara," and when Ara gets up to talk they cheer every fragmentary sentence:
"We're going to—"
"We'll get Griese just like we—"
It is believed around South Bend that at these charged moments Parseghian could tell the students to go soak their heads and they would cheer him wildly.
So was Hanratty sufficiently terrorized? No, Hanratty was not. Hanratty was calm. He slept well. He had no trouble swallowing. His coaches found they could even kid him. Tom Pagna, the foreman of the offense, told Hanratty of his own first game at Miami of Ohio. "We were warming up before the game and I was surprised how relaxed I was. Then somebody threw me a pass and I couldn't raise my hands to catch it. The ball hit me right in the helmet. 'Oh, dear God," I thought, "I'm paralyzed.' " Hanratty laughed.
John Ray, the defensive coach, cut in. Ray had recruited Hanratty out of Butler High. "Don't you let him worry you, Terry," he boomed. "The defense will win the game anyway, and if you do all right I'll let you become a linebacker."
Privately, the Notre Dame coaches were unanimously confident that the poise of both Hanratty and Seymour was genuine and, after the team breakfast Saturday, Fullback Larry Conjar told a friend that he was amazed. "Here I am, a senior. I can hardly get a mouthful down, and old Terry's calm as anything and eating more than anybody. And have you seen Seymour? What a pair they are going to be the next three years."
Nevertheless, the plan would be to give Purdue the ball first, establish the defense and allow Hanratty a chance to get used to the ringing crowd noise. Then, after a couple of running plays, he would be free to throw the ball at his pleasure. "I would love to see them try to cover Seymour one-on-one," said Parseghian. "One-on-one he'll beat somebody and get us on the scoreboard."
Hanratty did not pass until Notre Dame's second possession. Then he wound up, and while being hit from the side completed a 42-yarder to Seymour. Seymour had to come back on the ball and made the catch between three defenders, but it was the beginning that set a pattern, maddening to Purdue and intoxicating to the 59,075 people snuggled into Notre Dame Stadium.
Seymour is 6 feet 4, 205 pounds and lean. He is a sprinter and has the essentials of a good receiver: 1) greedy hands, 2) a change of pace and 3) composure in traffic. On straight fly patterns and one-on-one coverage in the first half against Purdue, he consistently beat his man. Purdue Coach Jack Mollenkopf admitted later that "we didn't realize how good he was. When we started to give him the coverage he deserved, we opened up more places for their attack."
It is significant, however, that even the jamming and the double coverage did not stop Seymour, and whenever he was allowed a nickel's worth of air space, voil√†!: Hanratty found him with a bullet. For Seymour, any defensive back a couple of inches shorter or a step slower is highly vulnerable, and poor Purdue's fate was to have too many of just that kind of man covering him.
In the second quarter, with the score tied 7-7 as a result of two theatrical touchdown plays—a 94-yard run with a fumble by Purdue's Leroy Keyes and a 96-yard kickoff return by Notre Dame's Nick Eddy—Seymour gave an inkling of things to come. He beat 5-foot-11 Bob Corby on a 41-yard pass that would have gone for a touchdown if Hanratty had not slightly underthrown the ball.
Minutes later Notre Dame broke the tie with a play that had Parseghian—quiet no longer—performing gymnastics on the sidelines. Hanratty, who can throw a football 70 yards in the air, threw one almost that far to Seymour on the Purdue 38. Beating Corby again, Seymour went on in to complete an 84-yard scoring play. "They have done that same thing far too many times in practice for it to be an accident," said Parseghian later.
Mollenkopf eventually had the good sense to make John Charles, his excellent deep back, a safety when the situation called for it (which was whenever Seymour cocked an eyebrow). Charles stationed himself 10 yards deeper than the deepest, watching for Seymour to fly his way, but the moment he moved back into regular coverage Seymour zipped by 5-foot-10 Dennis Cirbes and caught a 39-yard scoring pass from Hanratty for a 20-7 Notre Dame lead. This was early in the fourth quarter and by now Hanratty had won his duel with Griese, but that was as much the doing of the Notre Dame defensive team as his own.
Parseghian's defense is basically a four-four. Last year, however, he tried to rush a fifth man and Griese picked the short secondary apart and embarrassed the deep men into errors. "No cheap ones this time," were Parseghian's orders to John Ray as they prepared for Griese. Saturday Notre Dame dropped off all four linebackers, mixing zone and man-to-man coverage on receivers and lining up the tackles squarely on the noses of the offensive guards. From the blocks thrown on the tackles the four linebackers were able to determine immediately whether it was a run or pass, and the three deep men picked up accordingly.
As a result, Griese's primary receiver was almost always covered, sometimes by as many as four men, once by six. The front four—Ends Tom Rhoads and Alan Page and Tackles Pete Duranko and Kevin Hardy—were superb putting pressure on Griese, and Captain Jim Lynch and his linebacking group covered and tackled viciously. "Flush him out," were Ray's orders for Griese, and 14 times Griese had to run, his receivers covered and his pocket crushed down.
It is a credit to the brilliance of Griese that he still gained more than he lost rushing, and to the sharpness of his passing that after Notre Dame went up 20-7 he mustered Purdue once more on a six-play 75-yard touchdown drive that cut the difference to 20-14 and revived Purdue's hopes of duplicating the comeback that beat Notre Dame a year ago. There were still 11 minutes to play, plenty of time for more of Griese's valor.
But Notre Dame won the game right there. As Parseghian had predicted, the Irish are no longer in jail on third down, because Hanratty can make up yardage quickly and Parseghian has no fear of letting him try. Twice Hanratty threw on third down and once on second down as Notre Dame took the battle right back to Purdue. He drove the Irish 56 yards to the Purdue 28, eating up time with as slick a selection of plays as you will ever see. There Hanratty tried again for Seymour, and this time Charles happened in the way—actually, Seymour had beaten his man, Keyes, on the play but the ball was thrown behind him. It was Hanratty's only interception.
With 5:06 to play, Purdue had one more chance. Last year, in a similar situation, Griese took the Boilermakers 67 yards on four plays and won the day. You must see Griese play to realize that not just a few people Saturday believed he could do it again.
But, of course, he did not. Flushed on first down, he made only two yards. Then Irish Halfback Jim Smithberger got to his 12-yard pass at the same moment Purdue End Jim Beirne did and batted it away. Finally Page loomed up behind Griese, bear-hugged him and forced a fumble that Tackle Harry Alexander recovered on the Purdue 12.
Three plays later Hanratty ended all doubt with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Seymour to push the final score to 26-14. Seymour leaped to catch it, with 6-foot Halfback Bob Mangene flailing at him pitifully in the end zone. It was Seymour's 13th reception of the day, giving him 276 yards gained in all. And no receiver in Notre Dame history, not Jack Snow or Jim Kelly or Leon Hart or Jim Mutscheller, ever had such a day.
Hanratty finished with 16 completions in 24 tries for 304 yards. Living his dream—he was the last man out of the Notre Dame dressing room—Hanratty seemed to want to remember everything, even every drop of his shower. When he finally emerged, John Ray grabbed him by a bare shoulder and said, "Hey, boy, aren't you glad I brought you here?"
"Yessir, Coach, you bet," said Terry Hanratty. "You bet I am."