'63 game defines those who played

Navy win over Irish no upset, they agree

November 09, 2005|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

They were on opposing sides that November day in South Bend, Ind., 42 years ago in what - unbeknownst to both - was to ensue as a historic 35-14 Navy victory.

But Pat Donnelly, then the Navy fullback, and Dave Pivec, who played both tight end and linebacker for Notre Dame, can agree on two points: The last time the Midshipmen celebrated a win over the Irish was no upset, and 2005 does not appear to be the year they can break their NCAA-record 41-game losing streak in the series.

"It never occurred to me that this would last this long," said Donnelly, one of the Navy heroes with two touchdowns in the game. "We always thought Navy would be reasonably competitive, maybe win once every five years. They've come close quite a few times, but this is going to be a tough one. Their quarterback [Brady Quinn] is having an outstanding season."

"Hey, it's fun to be a Domer again this year," Baltimore-based Pivec said with enthusiasm. "My streak isn't going to end this time. They shouldn't beat Notre Dame. I always root for Notre Dame until it gets close. I'm tired of being asked about that loss."

In 1963, Navy was a powerhouse, led by quarterback Roger "The Dodger" Staubach, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy. After dominating highly rated Pittsburgh in midseason, the Midshipmen soared to the No. 2 ranking in the country and stayed there through the final poll despite a 28-6 defeat to No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl in what was, in effect, the national championship game.

"It was different then," said Pivec, the majority owner of the Major League Lacrosse champion Bayhawks. "There wasn't all the money in pro sports, and a military career was attractive. There was the 20-year retirement and the training that you gained you could use in a civilian job after that. Navy had very, very good players. It always aggravates me that people think we were upset."

The game occurred before the anti-military sentiment spawned by the Vietnam War, which meant the service academies were still competitive in the race for the top talent.

Notre Dame also had good players, but was laboring through a two-win season under Hugh Devore, a forgettable name in a long line of coaching legends in South Bend.

"The following year they improved dramatically," Donnelly said. "They had Jack Snow and John Huarte [who won the Heisman that year]. Maybe it was the coaching."

Pivec couldn't agree more. The next season, Ara Parseghian took over and led the Irish to a 9-1 record.

"From that '63 team, we had 13 players drafted by the NFL and some of them were second-stringers," said Pivec, who was one of them. "Hugh was just the worst coach I ever played for. He and Joe Kuharich [who preceded Devore] had staffs of old boys club with their friends on it. He really had no clue. The situation reminds me of Ralph Friedgen going 9-2 at Maryland with the same players after they had been so bad the year before. "

Meanwhile, Navy was led by Wayne Hardin, who delivered a stinging speech at halftime of that Navy-Notre Dame encounter.

"It seemed like we were going through the motions in the first half," said Donnelly, a vice president in the Dallas-based Staubach Company, which specializes in commercial real estate services. "So, we had a little discussion at halftime. The second half was totally different. We ran our balanced offense, which very few schools used then, very well after that talk."

Each year about this time, the participants in that Navy-Notre Dame encounter are reminded anew of the result.

"It seems like you see film clips of that game every year and then I get a couple of calls from friends about it," said Donnelly. "I'd gladly give up that if we just win one."

kentbaker@baltsun.com

Navy @Notre Dame Saturday, 1 p.m., chs. 11, 4, 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: N. Dame by 23

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