In Herb's Archive this month, stories about Notre Dame players who recall the classic game.
This month's edition of Herb's Archive is taken from an article called "Game matched buildup" found in a folder in his files marked "Notre Dame - Michigan State 1966." It was part three of a five part series called
The boys of Autumn, based on recollections of Notre Dame players and
The Game. By Fred Rothenberg.
the replacement quarterback for injured Terry Hanratty, hands off
to fullback Larry "The Crushing Croation" Conjar.
It wasn't enough that two undefeated teams, top-ranked Notre Dame and No.
2 Michigan State, were meeting near the end of the 1966 season. The media
buildup for this game began early in the season and it was enormous.
What's more, the teams didn't like each other.
"It was a real grudge game, guard Dick Swatland recalls 13
years later. "'They had been national champions the year before when
they beat us 12-3 in our stadium They were a bunch of animals that day.
They did a lot of cursing. Some of their players taunted Ara (Parseghian).
They intimidated our offense 'cause we didn't have a passing attack.
"Before the '66 game, Ara brought all that up. He reminded us how
they had tried to intimidate us with their language. It had become a lot
more than a game,' says Swatland, now a lawyer.
It was not just another game for the rest of the campus, either.
"There were pep rallies every night," says guard Tom Regner, now
a restaurant owner. "The students came to the dorms and hollered
until you came out and gave a little speech. The State students came down
and painted our football statue green, and we painted theirs blue."
"It was almost impossible to get any studying done," says
placekicker Joe Azzaro, now an executive with an investment firm in
Pittsburgh. "I recall having a test in criminology that week. The
next week, our professor apologized for giving the test when he did
because everybody did so poorly."
There was media everywhere. "I tried to get away from it all by
hiding in the chapel" says defensive tackle Pete Duranko.
"The buildup before the Super Bowl was not as intense," says
team captain Jim Lynch, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs and appeared
in the 1970 Super Bowl.
In the begining of the week, the team was briefed about State's personnel.
It was awesome, with such stars as defensive lineman Bubba Smith,
linebacker George Webster and halfback Clint Jones.
"After the Monday briefing, I was full of butterflies that I never
experienced before or after," says center George Goeddeke. "I
could hardly stand it. I was bumping into walls all week"
In fact, the coaches felt the team was too high and devised a plan to
relax the players. Tom Pagna, offensive coordinator, made a tape and told
the team it was the Michigan State radio show.
"It was supposed to be a joke, but nobody laughed," says
defensive end Tom Rhoads. "The room got deathly silent. It sounded
legit to me. The State players all said they were going to whip our butts.
It only made us madder. It wasn't 'til after the season that Pagna told me
he had done all the voices. "
"Pagna's sensational" said linebacker Dave Martin when recently
informed of the deception. "He could put (impersonator) Frank Gorshin
to shame. " .
The Notre Dame team traveled to East Lansing, Michigan by train. All the
way through Michigan, the Irish were given reminders that they were in
Halfback Rocky Bleier describes the trip in his autobiography,
"Their fans were standing on the platforms in Battle Creek and
Kalamazoo - some even stood along the tracks, in cornfields and on dairy
farms - jeering and holding sheet signs: 'Bubba for Pope,' 'Hail Mary,
full of grace, Notre Dame's in second place."'
And it got worse. Nick Eddy, the team's swift halfback, was wearing new
wing-tipped shoes, and the soles were slick "I was a question mark
anyway," Eddy says "I had taken a shot of cortisone for my
shoulder a couple of weeks before. Getting off the train, I slipped on the
top step, caught my elbow on the ledge and tore all the muscle fibers in
my right arm."
Nick Eddy was not able to play in the biggest game of the year...
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