November 1, 1913 - The Forward Pass beats Army

Whenever someone says that Notre Dame invented the forward pass in the game against Army, they would be mistaken. The forward pass had been legalized prior to the 1906 season and was put into use at several schools before Notre Dame started using it. One of the main proprietors of the forward pass had been Amos Alonzo Stagg. Stagg was the football coach at the University of Chicago and was one of the first to make extensive use of the forward pass.

Jesse HarperCoach Jesse Harper's first season at Notre Dame was the 1913 campaign. When he first arrived in 1912 as Athletic Director (as well as baseball and football coach), Harper wrote to West Point to arrange a football game. The small school in the west was beginning to make noise out east since Notre Dame posted a 38-2-5 record from 1907-1912 including their first win over the University of Michigan. Army agreed to play figuring the game would be a good tune up before they played Navy the following week. If Army would have known Harper's full resume, maybe they would have reconsidered.

Jesse Harper had been a standout player at the University of Chicago and had a very close relationship with Amos Alonzo Stagg. When Harper was the coach at Alma, he would stay in touch with Stagg and had him write several recommendations for him. Notre Dame had made use of the forward pass previously in the past and used it in the defeat of Michigan in 1909. It would be Gus Dorais and Knute Rockne who would showcase the new technique on a national stage. Working as lifeguards on the beach of Cedar Point, Dorais and Rockne practiced the timing needed to throw the ball to a receiver down the field. Keep in mind this was no easy task at the time as the football was larger than we are used to today. Once the 1913 season started, Coach Harper made it clear that Notre Dame would make extensive use of the passing attack. It was quite effective as they won their first three games 87-0, 20-7, and 62-0. Next on the schedule was the United State Military Academy.

Notre Dame Army radio broadcast in downtown South BendOn October 30, the team of nineteen players (with seventeen pairs of cleats) boarded a train heading east. The first half was rather evenly matched. Notre Dame was using the forward pass successfully but had trouble stringing together long drives. In the middle of the first quarter, Dorais heaved a throw 40 yards which Rockne caught on the run at the 2 yard line and took it in for a touchdown. While the forward pass had been used before, a pass of that distance was unheard of at the time. Army stuck with their rushing attack and scored two touchdowns to take the lead 13-7. As the first half was coming to a close, Dorais quickly moved the Catholics down the field. First a 25 yard pass to Rockne followed by a 35 yard pass to Joe Pliska excited the Army crowd as they began cheering for the visiting team. The ensuing touchdown put Notre Dame ahead 14-13 going into halftime.

Both teams played conservatively in the third quarter and neither team found the end zone. Notre Dame's superior conditioning paid off in the fourth quarter. Harper did not use a single time-out in the game and only had one player substitution where as Army had twelve substitutions. In the final quarter, Notre Dame scored three touchdowns. The passing game quickly moved the team down the field and set up the offense to effectively rush the ball as well. The final score would read 35-13 and the lowly Midwesteners had defeated the best team in the East. Dorais would finish the day completing fourteen of seventeen passes for 243 yards. Maybe Army would have fared better if they did not have an injured player on the bench the whole game. That injured player was Dwight D. Eisenhower.

            1  2  3  4     
Notre Dame  7  7  0 21 - 35
Army        0 13  0  0 - 13

Notre Dame and the Game that Changed FootballThis was more than just a game showcasing the forward pass. It was a major clash of East vs. West and Notre Dame began to tell the world they would play anyone, anywhere. Coach Harper and the 1913 squad would go undefeated with a 7-0 record posting wins against Army, Penn State, and Texas. All three games would be played away from Notre Dame, proving they would travel to any team's home field (plus the team would earn more money by playing at schools with larger stadiums). To learn more about Coach Harper, Knute Rockne, and the 1913 season, find a copy of Notre Dame and the Game that Changed Football.

Keywords: football, army, forward pass, jesse harper, amos alonzo stagg, dwight david eisenhower, university of chicago, knute rockne, gus dorais, michigan, penn state, texas, navy, catholics, joe pliska

Posted On: 2011-11-01 03:15:00 by IrishTrpt07


      Were you there? Have more to add? Leave a comment and let us know!

   Posted By: IrishTrpt07 at 2011-11-01 11:26:11[#2]
At 2011-11-01 10:12:23, Titus posted:
"Exclusive"? They rushed the ball too: I think you mean "extensive."
Thanks for the catch, we've made the edit.
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   Posted By: Titus at 2011-11-01 10:12:23[#1]
"Exclusive"? They rushed the ball too: I think you mean "extensive."
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