Irish have history of making history vs Oklahoma


Irish have history of making history vs Oklahoma

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Heisman Trophy winners and national champions. One historic blowout. One historic upset. One of the most memorable collisions in college football history.

Notre Dame and Oklahoma have not played often, but they have produced some classics - most won by the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame leads the series 8-1. No team has had as much success against the Sooners having played at least that many games.

``It's a great trivia question because most people would be astounded,'' said Jay Wilkinson, son of Bud Wilkinson, who coached the Sooners to three national championships in the 1950s.

The Sooners were ranked in the top 10 in six of those games, while the Irish were in the top 10 four times.

They are both in the top 10 again, and set to play for the first time since 1999 on Saturday night in Norman.

No. 8 Oklahoma (5-1) will try to hand No. 5 Notre Dame (7-0) its first loss of the season and derail the Irish's national championship hopes.

The most memorable game between the two featured just one touchdown.

The Sooners had won back-to-back national titles in 1955 and '56, and had won an NCAA-record 47 straight games. The Irish were coming off a school-worst 2-8 season in which they had been embarrassed at home by Oklahoma 40-0, the most lopsided home loss in Notre Dame history.

The Irish came into that 1957 game off consecutive losses to Navy and Michigan State, and arrived in Norman, Okla., as 18-point underdogs.

``I think deep down we thought we were going to get our fannies kicked,'' said Dick Prendergast, an end on the Irish team, now a 75-year-old periodontist in Long Grove, Ill.

But he said the Irish, coached by Terry Brennan, were inspired by two things. When they arrived in Norman, they saw signs saying the Irish had no chance against the Sooners. Then when they went to the hotel in Oklahoma City, they were greeted warmly by the manager until he saw Notre Dame had a black player, halfback Aubrey Lewis.

``He said, `I'm sorry, we can't have you as guests here.' Everyone shut up. We wanted to know what he meant by that. He said, `Well, we don't tolerate blacks,''' Prendergast said.

Prendergast said the Irish got back on the bus and drove about 15 miles to what he described as a second-rate hotel where there was one shared bathroom.

``By this time, our feelings were getting emotional. It had an effect on us. Because we all liked Aubrey,'' he said. ``We were really pepped up for this game. It did more to get us up for this game than coach Brennan could have said or anyone else could say.''

The Irish won when Dick Lynch scored on a pitch, running wide to the right on fourth-and-3 with 3:50 left.

``It just shows if you believe in miracles, one happens,'' former Notre Dame end Dick Royer said.

The loss likely cost the Sooners a third straight national championship as they finished 10-1.

``That would have been amazing,'' Oklahoma running back Clendon Thomas said.

Wilkinson said his father regretted not opening up the offense more.

Brennan said the difference between the '57 game and the loss the season before was that the chances the Irish took worked as opposed to the year before, when a young Irish team turned the ball over repeatedly, with Thomas and Tommy McDonald both scoring on interceptions.

``They beat the heck out of us,'' said the 84-year-old Brennan, who still attends a game at Notre Dame Stadium every season. ``If we played them straight up we'd lose 20-0, so I figured why not take some chances and go for it. We only lost 40-0.''

Paul Hornung, who won the Heisman at Notre Dame in 1956, remembers being in an all-star game after the season with Oklahoma center Jerry Tubbs, who had trouble snapping the ball back to him when Hornung was punting.

``He said, `Paul I'm sorry. You know we never punted at Oklahoma,''' he said.

The series between the two powers began in 1952 and featured that season's Heisman winner, Billy Vessels, against '53 winner John Lattner of Notre Dame. With the score tied at 21 after an Irish touchdown, Notre Dame's Dan Shannon tackled Oklahoma's Larry Griggs, knocking both players out and the ball loose. Al Kohanowich recovered for the Irish at the Oklahoma 25, and Tom Carey scored the game-winning touchdown for the Irish.

The Irish won again the next season 28-21 en route to a 9-0-1 record in Frank Leahy's last season.

The Irish also won a pair of games in 1961 and '62, then beat the 10th-ranked Sooners 38-0 en route to winning the national championship in 1966. The third-ranked Irish beat the fifth-ranked Sooners 45-21 to open the 1967 season. The final victory came in 1999, when the Irish beat the 23rd-ranked Sooners in Bob Stoops' first year as coach.

``There have been a lot of great games,'' Wilkinson said. ``I'm sorry they didn't get to play more.''

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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range. It is worth noting the Nuggets were without their leading scorer Gary Harris, a guy who is dangerous from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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