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NOTRE DAME 10, MICHIGAN STATE 10 : WHEN ARA TIED ONE FOR GIPPER : For a Day, They Were the Fightying Irish, and East Lansing Won't Let Them Forget It

September 19, 1986|GERALD SCOTT | Times Staff Writer

The Michigan State pep rally had a larger population, but it couldn't overshadow the Notre Dame affair in intensity because an Irish pep rally is a thing to make strong men tremble. But those of East Lansing need not fear civil outbreak this Saturday. Only about 500 Notre Dame students are making the trip to East Lansing, and this hardly seems enough to sack the town. There is, of course, the normal invasion of assorted Notre Dame alumni, real or otherwise, but these are more conversational than they are physical, and represent no actual threat to the city. Although the Irish were allotted only 800 seats in the 80,000-seat stadium, the schools' student governments were nonetheless so concerned about trouble breaking out that they held a hasty "peace conference" in East Lansing.

The solution was to hold a dance for students from both schools at the Michigan State Union building Friday night, but the turnout was so large that it spilled over to a nearby dormitory, where the affair was dubbed the "Spartan-Sham-Rock."

The dances and pep rallies that night were considered so important by Michigan State that its female students living on campus--yes, they were officially known as co-eds then--had their curfew extended from midnight to 2 a.m.

As if all of that weren't enough, the schools' freshman teams played on Friday night at East Lansing High School, a few blocks north of campus, and 10,000 fans packed the old stadium. Notre Dame won on a last minute field goal, 30-27, in the kind of game that most people were expecting from the varsity squads.

Playing defensive back and kicking for Michigan State's freshman team was Steve Garvey, who of course went on to fame as a baseball player with the Dodgers and San Diego Padres.

"I was the (scout team) quarterback for the varsity that week, meaning that I was playing the part of Terry Hanratty and Coley O'Brien for the defense to train against," Garvey said. "That also meant getting hit by Bubba Smith and George Webster a lot."

As it happened, this was Big Ten champion Michigan State's final game of the season because of a conference rule that then prohibited its teams from making repeat visits to the Rose Bowl. The Spartans had lost to UCLA in the 1966 Rose Bowl, 14-12.

Consequently, Michigan State students held an ersatz Rose parade around campus on Saturday morning, complete with mock floats, to remind all of what might have been.

And on the afternoon of the game, Michigan State students climbed a power-plant smokestack that looms 200 feet over the south end of Spartan Stadium, put up the requisite "We're No. 1" sign and hung in effigy a leprechaun that looked suspiciously like Parseghian.

A small contingent of Notre Dame students lucky enough to get tickets even ran the entire distance from South Bend, Ind., near the Indiana-Michigan border, to East Lansing, about 150 miles, arriving in 19 hours and just in time for the game.

Notre Dame fans in attendance wore buttons that read "Duffy's Fate is Second Rate" and "Hate State." A banner for the national television audience said: "Hi, Ma, We're Married."

Outside the Notre Dame locker room, a student wearing a blue and gold jacket handed out leaflets reading: "They warned Hiroshima, they warned Nagasaki, now the Ara Force warns you."

While all of this was going on, somebody stole the Michigan State and Notre Dame pennants flying above the stadium.

By 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19, 1966, there wasn't much left to do except finally play the game.

THE GAME OF THE CENTURY (SUCH AS IT WAS) There are emotional elements like the revenge motive--Notre Dame lost last year--it's Michigan State's last game in an unbeaten season, the traditional rivalry between the two schools, the No. 1 spot and the national championship. A team can be too fired up for a game, you know. I've been through that. -- Notre Dame's Ara Parseghian, the day before the game. The game was called the Poll Bowl because of the teams' top rankings, but in retrospect, it could be considered an NFL Bowl, given all the future National Football League stars involved.

From Notre Dame, there was the passing combination of Hanratty and Seymour, known as the Baby Boomers because they were only sophomores. There also were Coley O'Brien, Rocky Bleier, Bob Gladieux, Bob Kuechenberg, Larry Conjar, Alan Page, Kevin Hardy, Jim Lynch, Pete Duranko, and the injured Eddy.

From Michigan State, there were Bubba Smith, George Webster, Clinton Jones, Gene Washington, Raye, Bob Apisa, Jess Phillips and Charley (Mad Dog) Thornhill.

Said Joe Doyle, sports editor of the South Bend Tribune from 1951-81 and a Notre Dame historian: "There was no comparison between this game and the 0-0 tie between Notre Dame and Army at Yankee Stadium in 1946. That game, both schools seemed to play tentatively. I'd never seen a game as intense as this was. The hitting was savage."

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