1946: 8-0-1 Frank Leahy

1946 – America was no longer at war, and everywhere one looked, optimism bounded, including in South Bend, where the start of another Notre Dame football season brought the return of Frank Leahy as coach and John Lujack at quarterback.  Leahy had told his team in spring practice that a national championship was within the team’s reach.  He preached to them of long, hard work on the practice field that would net the ultimate prize, and the team responded.

In addition to Lujack, other top returners included tackle Ziggy Czarboski, end Jack Zilly and fullback Jim Mello. Other stars included halfback Terry Brannan and lineman Bill Walsh. Not to be overlooked was freshman Leon Hart. The Irish did not disappoint from the opening of the season – racing to a 5-0 record with convincing wins over Illinois, Pittsburgh, Purdue and Iowa, outscoring the opposition 177-18 in that stretch.

The undefeated Irish rode into New York to take on top-ranked Army at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 9. Army, coached by Red Blaik and touting the backfield of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, was riding a 25-game winning streak, two national championships and two defeats of Notre Dame in the past two years, outscoring the Irish 107-0. The bruising clash between the two traditional rivals did not disappoint the 74,121 fans who saw Lujack make an open-field tackle to stop Blanchard on what appeared to be the winning score. The game ended in a 0-0 tie. Although Army retained its No. 1 rank after the game, the Notre Dame offensive juggernaut crushed its remaining three opponents by a combined score of 94-6 and took home the national title once again.  National statistical offensive honors for the 1946 included:  total offense (441.3 yards per game) and rushing offense (340.1 yards per game).  Not to be out-done on the defensive side, Notre Dame finished the season by outscoring its opponents 271-24 in nine games and led the nation total defense (141.7 yards per game) and scoring defense (2.7 points per game).