October 5, 1951 - The first-ever night game


Briggs Stadium Detroit TigersOn a fall night in Detroit, Michigan, Notre Dame would take the field at night in their first-ever night game. The opponent was another Catholic university, the University of Detroit. The decision for the two schools may not have so much been since both were Catholic universities as it was not a common occurrence. The last time Notre Dame played a Catholic school was in 1928 against Loyola of New Orleans and the next game would be in 1975 against Boston College. One of the main factors for the meeting may have been the former coach at Detroit, one Charles "Gus" Dorias. Gus Dorias is known in Notre Dame lore for teaming with Knute Rockne to beat Army in 1913 with the explosion of the forward pass. Dorias would be the head coach at Detroit from 1925 to 1942 (when Detroit stopped football during the war) and was also the head coach of the Detroit Lions from 1943-1947. Scheduling the game to be played in Briggs Stadium was simple with all of Dorias's ties. Briggs Stadium would later be renamed to Tiger Stadium and was home to the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions.

Notre Dame I formationBoth teams, the Irish and the Titans, took the field before a sell-out crowd of 52,331. Notre Dame was coming off of the worst season under coach Frank Leahy where they compiled a 4-4-1 record in 1950. Notre Dame exclusively used the I-formation with the quarterback, both halfbacks and the fullback all lining up under center. After a 48-6 victory against Indiana to start the season, Notre Dame was ranked #5 coming into the game against Detroit. They certainly looked like a top five team from the opening kick. John Petitbon, senior halfback, took the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. Later in the first quarter, Detroit would punt and the catch would be reversed to Petitbon who then ran it back 73 yards for another touchdown. With Notre Dame back on offense again in the first quarter, Petitbon would receive the pitch and take it 39 yards for a third touchdown in the first quarter. At the end of the first, Notre Dame led 20-0 on three touches by Petitbon for three touchdowns totaling 197 yards.

Future Heisman winner Johnny Lattner primarily played on defense in 1951 and would intercept a pass only to return in 32 yards for another touchdown in the fourth quarter. Once the third string offense went in, Ralph Gugliemi would bring in the final touchdown to make the final score 40-6.

Notre Dame would play many more games under the lights but wouldn't play one at home until 1982. Many of the nights games (even today) are played at away and neutral site venues. Initially, the games were also in the south where it would be warmer in the evening than in a northern arena.




Keywords: football, night game, detroit, baseball stadium, gus dorias, loyola, boston college, knute rockne, army, frank leahy, indiana university, john petitbon, johnny lattner, ralph gugliemi, heisman

Posted On: 2011-10-05 03:15:00 by IrishTrpt07

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