- Associated Press - Thursday, November 18, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - It was 1946 and World War II was finally over, so it was OK to consider a college football game the biggest thing going on in the United States of America.

Back then, Notre Dame and Army were at the top of the sport. Their rivalry was THE rivalry. College football was still a regional game, but the Fighting Irish and Black Knights had national followings.

When they played on Nov. 9, 1946, at Yankee Stadium, Army was No. 1 and the two-time defending national champion. Notre Dame was No. 2. A standing-room-only crowd of about 75,000 packed the House that Ruth Built and Joe DiMaggio still called home that day to watch The Game of the Century.

“This was sort of a quintessential postwar American team,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said of the ‘46 Fighting Irish. “In the previous two years, the combined score of Notre Dame-Army was Army 107-0, because all our guys were in the service.

“The following year it was postwar America, the boys had come back home. In a sense, the game really represented that transition. America had returned to normal, Notre Dame had its football team back and its coach back.”

The game matched four players who ended up winning the Heisman Trophy, two on each side, and two Hall of Fame coaches in Earl “Red” Blaik and Frank Leahy. And when it was over, not a single point had been scored.

Army 0, Notre Dame 0.

“It turned out to be kind of a dull game of the century,” former Irish halfback Terry Brennan told The Associated Press earlier this week.

And yet, somehow, it’s still a game that sticks in the American imagination, with echoes that resonate even 64 years later as Notre Dame and Army prepare to play for their 50th meeting _ this time in the new Yankee Stadium on Saturday night.

It will be the first football game played at the two-year old ballpark and the 23rd time Notre Dame and Army have met in the Bronx.

“It was a natural,” Swarbrick said. “You’ve got to celebrate this stuff or you lose it.”

Some of the most memorable moments in Notre Dame’s rich history have come when the Irish have played Army.

The first matchup between the teams was in 1913, a game called “the most significant victory in the history of Notre Dame football” by former AP sports writer Ken Rappoport in his book “Wake Up The Echoes.” The Irish beat a powerful Army team 35-13 with coach Jesse Harper surprising the Cadets by having quarterback Gus Dorais frequently pass to end Knute Rockne.

The 1924 game at the Polo Grounds in New York produced one of the most famous pieces of sports writing in American history. The Irish won 13-7 and Grantland Rice began his story for the New York Herald Times this way:

“Outlined against a blue, gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”

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