By: Dr. Len Clark Special to Fighting Irish Preview
I am enjoying the bye week. Even we media types need a break, but I can guarantee you many of us will wake up tomorrow AM and wonder where we should be.
Feeling Like I should be doing something work related, I will write down a few memories about the USC game.
Along with the Navy game, the game with USC is one that I always look forward to working. You can just feel something in the air as you walk around campus. You know that feeling. The USC game has made me feel every possible emotion over the years, but none more than the game played in South Bend 48 years ago.
I was 9 years old and lived exactly 56 miles away from the Administration Building in Portage, IN. The game between the Irish and Trojans is what everyone in my neighborhood had been talking about all week. After school in Kingery’s front yard, we played the game over and over. No one wanted to be Lynn Swann or Pat Haden. We wanted to be Tom Clements and Eric Penick. We lived in ND Country. Now, this was well before social media so we devoured Sports Illustrated and Sport Magazine articles, in addition to newspapers. There was no ESPN or sports talk on radio and, in some ways, I think it made the anticipation for the game better .Scarcity has a way of making one appreciate things more.
I think it was a Sports Illustrated article – paging Notre Dame Historian Jim Augustine – about Notre Dame preparing for the Trojans. It was either a picture, or in the story about Notre Dame Priests walking on an Anthony Davis poster that had been taped to the sidewalk. The article also mentioned Eric Penick, Notre Dame’s star running back, who had a pet cat living in the dorm (illegally) so he could study it’s moves in order to allude defenders.
I woke up that Saturday morning – went to Pop Warner Football practice and was spared raking leaves due to the rain. It was a cold rainy day in northern Indiana. In other words, perfect football weather. I watched the game on channel 7 out of Chicago in my basement – watching the momentum shift back and forth all game. Swann was unbelievable and Haden was accurate. Ara’s “We have no breaking point” was being tested, but the Irish were determined.
Cue Eric Penick –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MvgpTuz3y4
I don’t remember much after that play, but I still watch it on YouTube every year around USC time to relive the moment. Pal, Frank Pomarico, a team captain is in it, so is Robin Weber one of the heroes of the Sugar Bowl that year.
Each time I watch it, it amazes me how close the fans and students were to the field, and the amount of plaid being worn at that time must have inspired the band the Bay City Rollers to form, and how the Notre Dame Band featured a unique percussion instrument that is rumored to be resting at the bottom of St. Mary’s Lake. It also takes me back to a simpler time when I was able to be a fan. I sure do miss those days, especially those dark uniform tops and true gold pants!
Come game time Saturday night, I will smile when I glance over to the northwest part of the north end zone and remember Penick’s 85 yard TD run before he disappeared into a sea of humanity.
Go Irish – Beat Trojans!
Len Clark has been covering Notre Dame football for over 30 years, most recently as the founder of Irish 101 and for IrishIllustrated.com and Dublin City FM. He is an occasional contributor to Fighting Irish Preview.