At the time of this matchup, the Eastern teams such as Army, Harvard, and Penn State were the powerhouses in college football. But on a national stage, the Fighting Irish became the one team that impacted the game forever after traveling East for the first time.
Notre Dame was for all intensive purposes a financially poor school that finally had their first pro coach by the name of Jesse Harper for the 1913 season. The forward pass was made legal in college football in 1906, and Harper had become familar with how to use it effectively.
In 1911, Harper nearly coached Wabash College to an upset of Notre Dame after using the forward pass. However, one pass play in that game was nullified because rules stated at the time that no forward pass could travel more than 20 yards in the air. That rule was abolished in 1913.
Army was a well-known program, and was one of the best at that time. Army head coach Charles Daly was familar with the forward pass having served on the committee that instituted it into play.
The Eastern schools relied on the power running games, and there were no scouting reports to prepare for what happened to the Cadets on this day. Army had only allowed six points in their first four games of the season, and were coming off a 2-0 win over Tufts College. They also beat a solid Colgate team by the score of 7-6 prior to their narrow win over Tufts.
After playing their first three games on the road, the Fighting Irish were set to play the first of their final four games away from South Bend. Notre Dame wasn't well-known in the East, but that would change on this afternoon.
The Cadets were a bigger team, and the Fighting Irish had to use the forward pass to counteract the size difference between the two. The Irish also had an All-American quarterback by the name of Gus Dorais, who was more than capable of catching Army off-guard with the forward pass attack.
With the Fighting Irish trailing 13-7 in the second quarter, Dorais effectively used the pass to put his team back in front. The Irish were pinned deep in their own territory, but Dorias threw for 80 yards on a drive that included end Knute Rockne catching two passes for 50 yards. Fullback Ray Eichenlaub finished off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to give the Fighting Irish a 14-13 lead.
The Cadets put together a drive in which they made it to the Notre Dame 1-yard line in the third quarter as they looked to take the lead back. But Rockne tackled running back Paul Hodgson for a loss, and the defensive line haulted halfback Frank Milburn's run on second down.
On the very next play, Dorais, who was playing cornerback, intercepted the ball in the end zone to stop the Cadets drive. It was one of few times that Army attempted to pass for a touchdown, and it ended any chance of them winning this game.
Notre Dame's passing attack had effected the defensive play-calling of Army. It was no secret that Army used it's size advantage as well as stack the line of scrimmage to stop the opponent's running game. But the Fighting Irish had caught the Black Knights by surprise which meant that Eichenlaub had more running lanes opened up for him with Army having to defend the pass, too.
The forward pass continued to work well as Notre Dame scored 21 unanswered points as they upset Army at West Point by the score of 35-13. Dorais finished the game 14-for-17 passing with 243 yards and three touchdowns. He went onto become the program's first consensus All-American as he quarterbacked the Fighting Irish to an undefeated 7-0 season.
Knute Rockne was also an All-American end, and would later become one of the best coaches in college football history as well as all of sports. He and Dorias were lifeguards and busboys at a resort in Ohio during the off-season in which they practiced throwing and catching to one another. Eichenlaub also was named All-American at fullback.
Even though Army lost this game, they had quite a few men that would later become multi-star generals. None were more well-known than Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley, who were on the bench for this game.
Both Eisenhower and Bradley graduated in 1915 in which an impressive 59 generals were a part of the same graduation. Eisenhower and Bradley would later become General of the Army and five-star generals which also included George S. Patton. This class was appropiately called "the class the stars fell on".
Eisenhower would eventually become the 34th President of the United States in 1953. He was very instrumental in the outcome of World War II as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces when he planned the invasion of France and Germany in 1944-45. When he was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in 1916, Eisenhower coached St. Louis College which is now St. Mary's University.
Bradley went onto earn several medals of honor for his war service which included a Silver Star. He also served with Eisenhower as a trouble-shooter in World War II, and he was the last surviving five-star officer that was commissioned when he died in 1981.
Daly went on to serve for the Army in World War I. He was also Fire Commissioner for the city of Boston during the 1910s. Daly had coached football at West Point and Harvard. His coaching status eventually earned him College Football Hall of Fame honors in 1951.
Harper would eventually step down as head coach of Notre Dame, but would return as Athletic Director following the tragic plane crash that led to the death of Rockne in 1931. Harper is in the College Football Hall of Fame
Even though this game wasn't the first to use the forward pass, it was the first to do so on a national stage that garnered the attention of a national audience. Word traveled more quickly about how Notre Dame was able to knock off the Cadets at West Point.
Notre Dame had become a household program that forever changed the fortunes of their own program as well as college football. They went onto to play at Penn State and Texas while achieving fame for this game in route to an undefeated season.
Eisenhower, even though he was on the bench, became a U.S. President. Bradley was a General of the Army. Rockne became one of the best coaches in any profession. Harper, Daly, Dorais, and Eichenlaub are all College Football Hall of Fame inductees.
Army had many of "the stars the class fell on" in this game. Notre Dame became a household name, and had popularized the forward pass on a national stage. Yes, this contest had it all, and it is one of the most important and influential games in the history of American football.
Photo courtesy of American Chronicle which shows the book called Notre Dame and The Game That Changed Football by author Frank P. Maggio.
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