1929: 9-0-0 Knute Rockne

Notre Dame football faced several challenges before the start of the 1929 football season.  A disappointing 5-4 record in 1928 propelled head coach Knute Rockne to promise a return to excellence that was now a tradition for the Fighting Irish.  But that return would have to be done without a single game being played at home.  The Irish were building a new football stadium and 1929 represented the transition year from old Cartier Field and the year before the opening of Notre Dame Stadium in 1930.  Winning games would have to be done on the road.  No home games were on the nine-game 1929 schedule.  The closest “home games” for Notre Dame were three contests played at Soldier Field in Chicago. Added to the transient nature of the team was the fact that Rockne faced a serious battle with phlebitis that doctors said was serious enough to possibly cause death.  No home field, Rockne forced to coach some games from a hospital bed or wheel chair, and a team trying to redeem itself from a disappointing year, created a mood of great anticipation.

The team opened with a shutout of Indiana, but found themselves bound for Baltimore and the game against Navy without Rockne.  Tom Lieb took over command of the team, guiding them to a 14-7 win.  A convincing 19-0 win over the Badgers of Wisconsin, which saw running back Joe Savoldi dazzle the crowd with runs of 71 and 40 yards, pushed ND to 3-0 for the season. An undefeated (6-0) team faced its toughest test November 16 at Soldier Field against USC (6-1 at the time). Rockne, still in great pain, remained in South Bend. The score was tied 6-6 at half and the team appeared in need of an inspirational speech.  Former play Paul Castner stepped in; however in the middle of Castner’s talk, Rockne was wheeled into the locker room.  It was reported that during the pep talk, a blood clot moved from one leg, passed through Rockne’s heart, and settled in the other leg.  Rockne’s knack for inspiration proved successful again as the team pulled out a 13-12 win.  Final victories over Northwestern and Army (at Yankee Stadium) fulfilled the perfect 9-0 season and the second of Rockne’s national championships.