Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 23, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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52 OCT. 23, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI B eginning with the 1977 na- tional champions, Notre Dame has donned green jerseys in football 57 times the past 40 seasons. Yet there will forever be only one "Green Jersey Game": USC on Oct. 22, 1977. The eve of that contest, an im- mensely talented but relatively un- derachiving Notre Dame team filed into Stepan Center for one of the most electrifying — but also slightly con- fusing — pep rallies in school history. Loudspeakers were stationed outside for the hundreds who were unable to enter into the sardine-packed facility. One of the four captains, defensive end Willie Fry, encouraged the throng to wear green the next day so the sta- dium would "form a sea of green." Later, basketball coach Digger Phelps implored the chant, "We are … Green Machine! We are … Green Machine!" Why? Notre Dame's school colors were Gold and Blue. Senior student Charlie Weis — later the Fighting Irish head coach from 2005-09 — was was one of many who left the pep rally energized, but also somewhat befuddled. "I remember going back to my dorm saying, 'Digger doesn't know what the hell he's talking about!'" Weis recalled in 2007. Weis was hardly alone in trying to decipher what all the sudden infatua- tion with green involved. GOING GREEN Third-year head coach Dan Devine's 1977 squad was in need of a second spark. Preseason favorites to win the na- tional title, the Irish were fortunate to survive a 19-9 win at defending na- tional champ Pitt in the season opener when Panthers star quarterback Matt Cavanaugh was knocked out of the game early after he helped put Pitt ahead 7-0. A week later, Notre Dame suffered a stunning 20-13 loss at Mis- sissippi. In game three, third-string quarter- back Joe Montana rallied the Irish to a 31-24 victory at Purdue after trailing 24-14 in the fourth quarter. Montana was spark No. 1. Notre Dame was far from dominant the next two weeks. Montana threw three interceptions in a hard-fought 16-6 victory at home against Michigan State — with "Dump Devine" stickers sold right outside the stadium — and the Irish followed with a 24-0 win ver- sus scrappy Army. No. 5 USC was next for the 4-1 and No. 11 Irish. The Trojans were 7-1-2 against Notre Dame in the 10 previous meetings, and the Irish senior class had yet to defeat them. "It was our last shot, and we wanted them bad," recalled running back Terry Eurick, one of the captains. "They were our benchmark in the '70s — like Mi- ami was in the '80s and Florida State in the '90s." Two days before the game, Devine asked to meet with Eurick, Fry and the other two captains, Ross Browner and Steve Orsini, after practice in a closed meeting room. He showed them the emerald green jerseys he had ordered back in August for the USC game. The only other people who know were equipment manager Gene O'Neill, Devine's wife, Jo, and Phelps. When Devine was hired in 1975, Phelps had recommended he don green uniforms as a way to establish his own identity in the program, but it never materalized … until two years later. Devine then asked Phelps to be the guest speaker at the pep rally and tell the crowd to wear green the next day — without spilling the secret. Likewise, the captains were sworn to secrecy. Notre Dame hadn't worn green since 1963, but Devine always had as- sociated the Fighting Irish with green. Frank Leahy's juggernauts of the 1940s donned green, as they did in the 1950s when Devine was an assistant at Mich- igan State. "I was disappointed in the color when I first saw it [in a relatively unlit room], and if the captains didn't like them, we weren't going to use them," Devine told Blue & Gold Illustrated in 1997. "All four were enthusiastic. We re- ally needed some kind of spark. It was a gamble because if we had lost … it would have been atrocious." SURPRISE! For maximum effect, Phelps in- formed Devine to not have the players dress in the green for the warmups. There was some more confusion on their part, though, when the game socks had a green stripe, which clashed with the regulation blue home jerseys. In the interim between the warm-ups and the players returning to the locker room for final instructions, the team's student managers lugged the closed boxes of green jerseys into the stadium in a covert operation. When the players filed back, the green jerseys hung in each locker. "It was incredible," Eurick said of the pandemonium. "You could hear the echoes of 'Green Machine, Green Machine …' outside the tunnel." The emotional fervor was at a peak, Tight end Ken MacAfee (81) and fullback Dave Mitchell (44) celebrate a touchdown during the 49-19 "Green Jersey Game" win over USC. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS GREEN MACHINE The lone 'Green Jersey Game' in Notre Dame history occurred 40 years ago

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