Andy Pilney, ND 1933-1935. (Photo: University of Notre Dame)

So far in 2023 the Irish have accomplished exactly what was required.

Week one in Dublin the Irish came out hot and burned the Navy 42-3, and Sam Hartman became the real deal.

In Week two the Irish made history on the field against first time opponent Tennessee State and the offensive roll continued in a 56-3 trouncing

Week three against North Carolina state, was the first power five road test for the Irish and they aced it, 45-24. 

Last week the Irish notched win number four over Central Michigan 41-17 with a couple of long TDs to Tobias Merriweather and Chris Tyree and a big game from Audric Estime.

And that brings us to Andy Pilney.

An ND running back from 1933-1935, Pilney never started a game for the Irish. He had had some moments but would be all but forgotten were it not for a heroic performance against Ohio State in 1935.

On November of that year, both teams were undefeated and Ohio State was ranked the number 1 team in the nation. 81,000 fans showed up in Columbus expecting to see their Buckeyes take out ND.   

The match-up caught the national imagination and long before “around the clock” TV sports, radio stations and newspapers from all over showed up and gave the game a national footprint.

The Buckeyes took a 13-0 halftime lead.  But Notre Dame, made halftime adjustments and bottled up the Buckeyes the rest of the game.

And that’s when Andy Pilney enters the story.

In the fourth quarter, with the Irish still trailing 13-0, Pilney led an Irish charge with his running, passing, tackling and punt returns.  He first gave the Irish field position with a 28-yard return. Then he passed the Irish down to the goal line and the score went to 13-6 with the clock ticking down.

The Irish got the ball back with three minutes remaining.  Starting at their own 20, Pilney went to work. The Irish drove 80 yards and Pilney caught a pass and completed two passes including a 15 yarder for a TD.

The Irish missed the extra point, it was 13-12.

After a failed onside kick attempt, the Irish recovered a fumble which of course was forced by Pilney.

The Irish took over in their own territory and Pilney, came through again.  He faked a pass, found a hole up the middle and willed himself over and and around tacklers 36-yards to the Ohio State 19. 

That was the last down of football Pilney would ever play for Notre Dame.  During that scramble, Pilney, suffered a devastating knee injury.

But there were still :32 seconds on the clock and the Irish were 19 yards away from winning the game.  Pilney, wracked with pain watched the remaining action from a stretcher.

Lightning struck one more time. On the game’s last play, two all-Americans hooked up.   Bill Shakespeare hit Wayne Millner to cover the 19 yards and a stunning 18-13 comeback victory, was complete.

Pilney had given everything and given his last measure of effort in leading the furious Irish comeback to victory 

Many in the press and on the radio reported it as the greatest game they had ever seen, and the capacity crowd of Buckeye fans left their stadium, in a daze.

Years later football writers would vote Notre Dame-Ohio State 1935: “The game of the Century”.

This week the Irish face a season defining game and it is against that same old nemesis, Ohio State. Now, going back to 1996, Ohio State has defeated the Irish five straight times. 

For the love of Andy Pilney, beat Ohio State!

ByPhil Houk

For over 25 years, bringing you the glory of Notre Dame football.

Leave a Reply