Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame snapped 47-game win streak

'These boys shocked the world today'

Margaret Fosmoe
South Bend Tribune

It's a record that still stands today.

From 1953 to 1957, the University of Oklahoma Sooners compiled a 47-game winning streak, the longest NCAA Division 1 winning streak in college football history.

And on Nov. 16, 1957, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame snapped it.

See the Tribune front page from the game: http://goo.gl/B0bW2k

On that day, unranked Notre Dame traveled to Norman, Okla., for a game against the No. 2-ranked Sooners. The Sooners were favored by three touchdowns.

But the story ended differently than conventional wisdom predicted.

"Irish cheered across the U.S." blared the banner headline on the front page of the next day's South Bend Tribune. "Upset snaps Sooner skein at 47 in a row," read the subhead.

"Notre Dame's football team, much maligned for its courage and its coaching in the last couple of weeks, Saturday afternoon staggered Oklahoma's twice national championship team with 60 minutes of bruising defensive play to earn a 7-0 upset," Tribune sports editor Joe Doyle reported in the next day's newspaper.

With the win streak dating back four years, not a player on the Oklahoma team had previously known defeat in a college game, Doyle noted.

The game was broadcast nationally on NBC.

For Notre Dame coach Terry Brennan, the game was the most significant victory to that point of his career, which in 1956 had included a dismal 2-8 season and a 40-0 loss to Oklahoma in South Bend. The win over the Sooners came on the heels of a 20-6 loss to Navy and a 34-6 loss to Michigan State.

Brennan served as Notre Dame head coach from 1954 to 1958, finishing with a record of 32-18.

"Saturday afternoon, Brennan rode high on the shoulders of his team after the game, a team that was determined to win one for themselves and the coach," Doyle wrote.

The Irish limited the Sooners to just 96 yards on the ground.

Neither team scored until late in the fourth quarter, when Notre Dame had a 20-play, 80-yard drive. On fourth-and-goal from the three-yard line, Irish quarterback Bob Williams pitched to Dick Lynch for the game's only touchdown, aided by a Nick Pietrosante block on the lone Sooner defender at the corner. With less than a minute remaining, Williams intercepted an Oklahoma pass in the end zone to assure a victory.

It was the Sooners’ first shutout loss in 123 games. Coincidentally, Notre Dame also was the last team to top Oklahoma, 28-21, in the 1953 season opener.

The reaction back in South Bend was wild.

"South Bend and the University of Notre Dame became synonyms for football once again Saturday," South Bend Tribune news reporter Walton R. Collins reported in the Sunday paper.

Approximately 3,000 local residents and students greeted the team members when they arrived back at the South Bend airport that Saturday night. There was an even larger crowd awaiting the team buses as they pulled up to campus.

A front-page photo Sunday showed students climbing on top of a bus carrying the football team on its triumphant return.

"Pandemonium broke lose on the Notre Dame campus last night after the Irish football team arrived home from a 7-0 conquest of mighty Oklahoma, a team that had won 47 straight games," the paper reported. Students stormed the buses and carried the players around in a parade scene.

"These boys shocked the world today," South Bend police patrolman LeRoy Barritt told the newspaper.

See a column from Joe Doyle published two days after the game: http://goo.gl/RL0au1

Classes were canceled for a day in celebration of the win. "Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., president of Notre Dame, told a throng of students on the campus last night that there will be a holiday from classes Monday in celebration of the victory," the Tribune reported.

Notre Dame went on to lose to Iowa the next week, then gained victories over USC and Southern Methodist.

The 1957 Fighting Irish squad earned the nickname the "Comeback Comets" after finishing the season 7–3.

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Jubilant Notre Dame students climb on top of a bus carrying members of the Fighting Irish football team on Nov. 16, 1957, the day the team beat Oklahoma 7-0, snapping the Sooners' 47-game winning streak. Fellow students carried the players around in a parade scene at the Main Circle, the South Bend Tribune reported the next day.
The bus carrying the Notre Dame football team on its way from St. Joseph County Airport to campus on Nov. 15, 1957, the day the team beat Oklahoma 7-0.
Notre Dame students and other fans celebrate the Notre Dame victory over Oklahoma on Nov. 16, 1957, outside the Granada Theater in downtown South Bend. The Irish snapped the Sooners' 47-game winning streak.
Thousands of cheering fans greet members of the Fighting Irish football team as the team plane arrived at St. Joseph County Airport (now South Bend International Airport) on Nov. 16, 1957, after Notre Dame beat Oklahoma 7-0, ending the Sooners' winning streak.
Notre Dame player Dick Lynch, right, who scored the winning touchdown in the game, is all smiles as he shows head coach Terry Brennan a magazine article titled: "Why Oklahoma is Unbeatable" as the team arrives back in South Bend on Nov. 16, 1957 after defeating the Sooners 7-0.
Nick Pietrosante (at center shaking hands), a star fullback on the Notre Dame team,  receives applause as the team arrives back at St. Joseph County Airport on Nov. 16, 1957 after beating the Oklahoma Sooners 7-0, snapping the Sooners' 47-game winning streak.