October 18 A Key Date In ND Football History

The University of Notre Dame football team carries a winning record into its bye week, taking a break from its 12-game schedule this Saturday, October 18. Six games down, six to go.

It’s almost as if today’s Fighting Irish are honoring their tradition with a silent salute to another Saturday, October 18.

It was on that day in 1924 that Knute Rockne’s Notre Dame team faced a strong squad from Army at the Polo Grounds in New York City. The pivotal game, its coverage by sports writer Grantland Rice, and a subsequent publicity photograph helped create one of the most lasting icons in American sports history ….The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame.

On that epic day in 1924, playing in front of a record crowd of 55,000-plus at the New York Giants’ baseball home, the Irish outplayed Army, 13-7, in a hard-fought battle that captivated the throng of football fans. Only two years removed from playing in front of relatively small crowds on the Plains of West Point, the Notre Dame-Army game became an event that day. It was a day of color and pageantry, with the Corps of Cadets marching into the Polo Grounds, and numerous dignitaries in the stands.

A series of long Notre Dame drives in the second and third quarters dazzled the crowd and kept Army on its heels. Two of the drives resulted in touchdowns, and all of them displayed the array of speed, deception and determination that characterized the Notre Dame backfield.

Rice was moved to write: “Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”

Quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, guiding halfbacks Don Miller and Jim Crowley, along with fullback Elmer Layden, followed the interference of their sturdy line, later dubbed “The Seven Mules,” and outgained Army by a huge margin, approximately 250 yards to 50. On defense, the Irish eleven, led by Captain Adam Walsh, playing with two broken hands, repelled the Black Knights time and again.

While the 1924 Army game is the prism through which generations of Notre Dame fans have recalled this great team, it was just one game –the third out of 10 played by the 1924 Irish. Another trip East followed the very next week, resulting in a victory over Princeton, one of the Big Three of college football. Then came Irish wins over some of the top teams from the South (Georgia Tech), Big 10 (Wisconsin and Northwestern) and Midlands (Nebraska). Finally, it was the three-week odyssey to the West Coast to meet mighty Stanford at Pasadena in the 1925 Tournament of Roses.

When it was over, this Notre Dame squad had become a national phenomenon – gaining fans from coast to coast while becoming the first football team to play in New York City, Chicago and southern California in the same season. The Irish logged some 15,000 miles on trains that season, and created an image of devout, clean-cut, hard-working young men who represented their school and their faith to legions of fans.

The entire story of the 1924 Notre Dame team and its amazing season is told in “Loyal Sons: The Story of The Four Horsemen and Notre Dame Football’s 1924 Champions,” released last month by Great Day Press to an enthusiastic reception at the Notre Dame Bookstore. Since then, readers across the nation have enjoyed the story of Notre Dame’s first national championship team.