Sept. 23, 2006
By Jack Ebling, Online Columnist
They called it "The Game of the Century" - rightly so, in terms of the hype and the hits. No college football game has had more All-Americans or high pro draft picks than the most famous tie in sports history. And no head-on collision has left a greater impact on its sport than "The Imperfect 10," No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Michigan State on Nov. 19, 1966, in Spartan Stadium.
The trouble with that historical reference is that it's already 2006. "The Game of THIS Century" thus far, all six seasons of it, was either Oho State-Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl or Texas-USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl, both BCS title matchups.
But for the past century - the period from Jan. 1, 1901, to Dec. 31, 2000, according to the Gregorian calendar - it's tough to top the clash of Ara Parseghian's 8-0 Fighting Irish and Duffy Daugherty's 9-0 Spartans. Incredibly, neither team appeared in a bowl game in January 1967.
A quick look back at two charismatic leaders, their star players, their unsung heroes and matching 9-0-1 final marks shows there were many more similarities than differences.
COACHING: How about two members of the College Football Hall of Fame?
Parseghian was a sensational 95-17-4, .836, in 11 years at Notre Dame and 170-58-4, .741, in 24 seasons overall, including stints at Miami (Ohio) and Northwestern. He was 8-2-1 against MSU with the Irish and 8-7-1 against the Spartans overall.
Daugherty was 109-69-5, .609, in 19 years, all at MSU. He was 10-7-1 against Notre Dame, with more wins over the Irish than any other coach and more victories than all but four schools.
Daugherty was 7-6-1 against Parseghian - 5-0 vs. Ara's Northwestern teams, 2-2-1 vs. Notre Dame from 1964-68 and 0-4 from 1969-72. Parseghian retired two seasons later, after two more Irish wins over the Spartans.
But the most interesting connection came in 1963. Notre Dame made formal contact with MSU President John Hannah and asked permission to talk with Daugherty about succeeding interim coach Hugh Devore. Hannah told Daugherty he couldn't let him leave and came up with the title "Director of Football," with a direct reporting chain to the president. When Parseghian saw Daugherty was staying in East Lansing, he called South Bend and applied for the job.
ALL-AMERICANS AND TOP PICKS: The Irish have had seven Heiman Trophy winners: quarterback Angelo Bertelli (1943), quarterback John Lujack (1947), end Leon Hart (1949), halfback John Lattner (1953), quarterback Paul Hornung (1956), quarterback John Huarte (1964) and flanker/kick returner Tim Brown (1987).
No Spartan has ever won a Heisman. But Michigan State had a hand - or maybe a foot - in Brown's award in 1987, when he returned back-to-back Greg Montgomery punts for touchdowns in Notre Dame's 31-8 win over the soon-to-be Big Ten and Rose Bowl champs.
The '66 Irish had eight first-team All-Americans: linebacker Jim Lynch (unanimous), guard Tom Regner, halfback Nick Eddy and defensive end Alan Page (consensus) and end Jim Seymour, fullback Larry Conjar and defensive tackles Kevin Hardy and Pete Duranko (at least one team).
After having eight first-team All-Americans in 1965, the Spartans had six more in '66: roverback George Webster and defensive end Bubba Smith (unanimous), halfback Clinton Jones (consensus) and offensive tackle Jerry West, end Gene Washington and fullback Bob Apisa (one or more teams).
A whopping 25 of the 44 starters on offense and defense on that cold, gray day received some form of All-America mention.
Michigan State had the edge in first-round picks in the 1967 NFL Draft with an astounding four seniors in the first eight selections: 1. Smith (Colts), 2. Jones (Vikings), 5. Webster (Oilers) and 8. Washington (Vikings). No team has ever matched the level of star power the Spartans contributed to the first combined selection since the AFL-NFL merger.
But Notre Dame had three first-rounders on March 24, 1967: 12. Guard Paul Seiler (Jets), 15. Page (Vikings) and 23. Regner (Oilers). The Irish also had three sophomores and juniors become top selections in the next two years. Hardy went seventh overall to the Saints in the spring of 1968, while offensive tackle George Kunz went second to the Falcons and Seymour 10th to the Rams in 1969.
BIG-GAME SURPRISES: In nearly every classic game in football history, one or more players who'll never bask in All-America glory has the game of his life - or at least makes a critical play that's talked about for decades.
Three players on each team fit that description in a game chronicled by author Mike Celizic in The Greatest Game of Them All.
When Eddy slipped off a Grand Trunk train and reinjured his right shoulder the day before the game, back-up halfback Bob Gladieux came to the rescue and scored Notre Dame's only touchdown on a 34-yard reception.
The player who threw that pass and directed a patchwork Irish offense as well as Parseghian could have hoped was sophomore Coley O'Brien. His stats weren't great (7-for-19 passing for 102 yards), but his team would have been 9-1 without him. When starter Terry Hanratty had his shoulder crushed to Smith-erines, O'Brien led his team back from a 10-0 deficit.
MSU's most productive rusher (5.2 yards per carry) was sophomore fullback Regis Cavender. With Apisa rendered useless by a knee injury, Cavender had to carry a surprising load and responded with several good gains, including a 4-yard smash for the game's first score.
And a pair of unheralded defenders, tackle Jeff Richardson and end Phil Hoag, had score-saving stops. Without Richardson, a Big Ten wrestling champion, O'Brien would've scored on a scramble from the 10-yard line. And without Hoag's knifing tackle of halfback Dave Haley for an 8-yard loss to the 24, a fourth-quarter field-goal try by Joe Azzaro would have been good.
Instead, only the game was - regardless of its century.