Players remember the day The Streak was snapped
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
10/24/12 at 3:02 AM
NORMAN - The Oklahoma fans sat in stunned silence on that crisp November afternoon in 1957.
The Memorial Stadium scoreboard spoke volumes: Notre Dame 7, OU 0.
The Sooners' fan base was conditioned for victories. It had seen Oklahoma capture 47 consecutive wins - which still remains as the longest streak in major college football history.
The Fighting Irish, nearly three-touchdown underdogs, scored the only touchdown and sealed it with a game-ending interception.
Following a postgame speech by OU coach Bud Wilkinson - focused on the streak and not the loss that ended it - Bill Krisher left the locker room to eat dinner.
"I got halfway over toward the chow hall and, I'm dead serious, people were still sitting in the stands. I was amazed," Krisher said. "People were stunned and unbelieving."
There were some muffled sounds coming from deep in the stadium's bowels.
"The locker room afterwards, there was a lot of elation," Notre Dame fullback/linebacker Chuck Lima said. "Coach (Terry) Brennan wasn't a rock-em, sock-em (Knute) Rockne type. But he was appreciative."
Notre Dame reportedly was welcomed home by 3,000 fans. It was a big victory for the Irish.
And, 55 years later, the magnitude of that loss remains strong in Oklahoma and college football history.
The former Oklahoma players answered their phones with the same question: Why talk about the 1957 game with Notre Dame? Why can't we talk about the 1956 game against the Irish?
OU beat Notre Dame 40-0 in 1956, notching the 35th straight triumph for college football's powerhouse program. It's also the only time in nine meetings that Oklahoma beat the Irish.
Showing that time heals most wounds (but not all), they rewind their memories to yesteryear.
Jakie Sandefer grew up to the aura of Notre Dame football. As a young boy, he kept up with players like Ralph Guglielmi and Joe Heap.
"Notre Dame was the toast of college football," said the former OU running back. "When I was in junior high, I was listening to Notre Dame football. I knew all about Notre Dame."
Krisher, an All America lineman, was recruited to Notre Dame after he'd committed to OU. He even took an official visit to South Bend, Ind.
"Terry Brennan wanted me to play there, but I said let me talk to Bud Wilkinson," said Krisher, who was from Midwest City.
The Sooners had only been seriously challenged once in 1957, prevailing 14-13 against Colorado. In the days leading up the OU-Notre Dame contest, everything seemed normal.
"I don't think (the campus) was any different than before any other game," Sandefer said. "I don't think it probably was (a big game in some people's minds) ... it wasn't like we were playing Texas."
But 880 miles away, the Irish were getting focused on the Sooners.
Scouting the Sooners
Notre Dame assistant coach Bernie Crimmins scouted Oklahoma nearly a month before the November contest. He locked in on OU's tendencies and personnel.
"We had a great scouting report," Lima said. "In those days, if you had a scouting report of three or four pages, you felt good. He gave us a dossier of everything they did."
The Irish were coming off a 34-6 loss to rival Michigan State. During the postgame handshakes, the Spartan players had a message for Notre Dame, Lima said.
"I'll never forget it," he said. "A couple of their guys said 'Go down there and show them what Big Ten football is.' "
The team flew to Oklahoma and stayed in Chickasha, where Lima said the water smelled like sulphur.
The defensive game plan (which stifled OU all afternoon) was set. The Irish abandoned its eight-man front with two outside linebackers and a safety for a seven-man front with two outside linebackers and two safeties.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma's players were shipped to Oklahoma City to stay at a hotel on the eve of the game. After dropping the team off, Wilkinson returned home to play his organ.
"He loved music," said his son, Jay Wilkinson. "It was a way for him to relax."
Both teams were ready. Kickoff was approaching.
End of a streak
Oklahoma great Clendon Thomas remembers the play like it was yesterday.
"(Nick) Pietrosante blocked Carl Dodd on the corner and Dick Lynch scored," Thomas said. "I can vividly remember the guys. Pietrosante put a whale of a block on Carl or they wouldn't have got in.
"I put that in replay mode and play it over and over, as if I can get a different result."
The 20-play, 80-yard drive with 3:50 remaining produced the only points in the football game played before 62,000 fans.
Oklahoma didn't have many scoring opportunities in the contest. It drove to the Notre Dame 13-yard line on its opening drive before stalling.
The Sooners also had a last-gasp effort to tie the game.
OU drove to the Notre Dame 24 in the final minute, but Bob Williams' interception sealed the 7-0 victory for the visitors.
As the last seconds went off the clock, OU fans were shocked. Not only did the Sooners lose, it was the first time the team had been shut out in 124 contests.
"It was a different feeling after we'd won 47 games," Krisher said. "All of the sudden, it was like letting the air out of you. We had never lost."
Then stadium public announcer Bruce Drake spoke up: "Let's give them a great hand," Jay Wilkinson recalled.
"Everybody stood up and cheered," Jay Wilkinson said. "But then it went back to a stunned silence and disbelief."
Brennan recalled a story from Notre Dame running backs coach Hank Stram.
"He's coming down after the game and an Oklahoma guy turns to another Oklahoma guy and said 'I'm glad we lost because I was sick and tired of seeing that Split T,'" Brennan said, with a chuckle. "Hank said he was about to fall to the ground laughing. They'd only won 47 straight games."
Bud Wilkinson didn't scream at his players following OU's first loss in five years.
"The first thing Coach told us after the game is that you guys have done something that no other major college team will ever do again. You won 47 games," Sandefer said.
Added Thomas: "It's never been duplicated. Coach told us at the end of the streak that it probably would never be duplicated."
Only USC, which had a 35-game win streak between 2003-05, has drawn near the Sooners' all-time streak.
Bud Wilkinson went home after the game and dinner table discussion didn't focus on the loss.
In the Wilkinson household, there were never talks about football.
"My dad had always made me proud," Jay Wilkinson said. "He handled adversity and losses just as well as he handled victories. He won more times than he lost. He knew that football was a competitive game and over a period of time you are going to lose."
Wilkinson, who finished with 145 career wins at OU, would have a coaching record of 58-3-2 between 1952-57. The three losses all came to Notre Dame.
Brennan was proud of his Fighting Irish on that 1957 afternoon.
"What can you say? They fought their hearts out," said Brennan, who coached Notre Dame between 1954-58. "Oklahoma had a lot more talent and faster guys and we won."
Wilkinson had a few parting words for his team before they departed the OU locker room on that day, Krisher said.
"Guys, you will be remembered for years to come."
Longest winning streaks in major college football
STREAK BY THE NUMBERS
3: Losses by Oklahoma (58-3-2)
between 1952-57, with all coming to
6: Average points allowed by Oklahoma
9: Opponents who played within
single-figures of OU.
22: Shutout victories by the Sooners.
47: Consecutive victories by the
Original Print Headline: The day the streak ended
Eric Bailey 918-581-8391
The above photos depict Dick Lynch scoring the only touchdown in Notre Dame's 7-0 win over Oklahoma in Norman on Nov. 16, 1957. The Irish's win ended OU's 47-game winning streak, the longest in college football history. The streak still stands. Tulsa World file