Irish introduce forward pass to East

Updated: October 31, 2003, 4:19 PM ET
By Joe Goldstein | Special to ESPN.com

Notre Dame has so long been ingrained in the public conscious as the eternal association with American football, it is surprising that until Nov. 1, 1913, there was no widespread recognition of the school's football history.

On that day 90 years ago, Notre Dame traveled to West Point to play the U.S. Military Academy football team.

The following description from "Rockne of Notre Dame" by Delos W. Lovelace (published by G.P. Putnam in 1931, thus the closest account of the event which would turn out to be historical) is the most compelling.

"Nowhere in football annals has there been a team more obscure than the one which arrived at West Point on Nov. 1 on 1913 to play the Cadets. Up to then, save for widely spaced engagements with Michigan and Indiana, Notre Dame has to be content with such opponents as St. Viatur, Adrian, inconspicuous Morris Harvey and tiny, long since dead and gone, Hillsdale.

"The Army lineup included Merrilat, Prichard, McEwen, Hobbs, Weyand, Meacham, Jones-Merrilat, who was Walter Camp's all-American end that year, McEwen, who was Camp's all-American center the year following. Prichard at quarterback was an all-American man, too."

In fact, Notre Dame was so little know that Ray Robinson, author of "Rockne of Notre Dame" (published by Oxford University Press, 1999) mentioned that "In reporting on the event, the New York Times wrote that Notre Dame's players 'were coming all the way from South Bend, Illinois,' a geographical error that underlined the reality that outside of their home base Notre Dame remained faceless and press agentless."

Lovelace pointed out "The editorial aces were watching Harvard, Princeton, Tale and even the third-string writers to report the game decided the joke was on them when they discovered Notre Dame was so poorly equipped that the one substitute sent in that day had to call time while he got proper shoes from the man he replaced. Larkin went in for Finegan in Finegan's shoes. It is just possible there were no more substitutions because no relief man had feet of the right size."

In the first quarter Notre Dame introduced the forward pass to the East.

Since 1905, there had been sparing use of this place.

Lovelace described it in a subdued way (for a revolutionary implementation):

"It was Notre Dame's ball. From the moment events entirely unexpected by the audience and the Points came in devastating succession. As the Army line broke through to crush old fashioned plays similar to the ones they had set going, (Gus) Doranis, nimble as a cricket, side-stepped guards and tackles and spun a new fashioned pass as accurate as a rifle shot to Rockne. There were more passes in swift, incredible succession. There were touchdowns. Two."

The half ended with Notre Dame ahead 14-13.

Lovelace continued:

"A bewildered West Point consulted during the intermission and at the beginning of the second half ran on to the field with a makeshift defense against the unorthodox, the all but unbelievable, game which the visitors had introduced.

"Rockne suddenly began to limp and the Cadets snatched at hope. If they had only one end to watch they might possible wrest victory from defeat after all.

"On a succession of plays, Dorais, passing to Pliska, made a fair gain each time. And on each play Rockne limped wide of the scrimmage and down the field.

"About this time he was left uncovered by the defensive Army back who went where he was needed more.

"On the next play, far over flank, Rockne lost his limp as suddenly as he had gained it, and was away with an open field ahead. ... The East sat amazed at the sight of the first forty yard pass it had seen."

Lovelace summarized that Notre Dame had completed 14 of 17 passes "on the afternoon of revolution. Nothing like this had been seen before."

The final score was Notre Dame 35-Army 13.

Lovelace, in analyzing accounts of the game, observed that Rockne, who scored two of his team's four touchdowns, did not receive the attention Dorais did.

"Charles (Gus) Dorais was the particular bright star of the occasion."

Dorais was mentioned three times for every Rockne mention.