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New York Times takes a look back at Notre Dame vs. Army

If you’re looking for historical context for this Saturday’s match-up between Notre Dame and Army, look no further than the New York Times, which ran an excellent piece on the history of the match-up that took place in Yankee Stadium.

Here’s a quick snippet:

To understand how universally significant the Yankee Stadium football games between Army and Notre Dame once were, it is worth revisiting World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. During the winter of 1944-45 in Belgium, American troops were surrounded and being infiltrated by English-speaking German spies dressed as American soldiers.

How did the Americans tell friend from foe?

They asked any unfamiliar face to tell them the score of Army’s 1944 game with Notre Dame.

Because every G.I. knew that at sold-out Yankee Stadium on Nov. 11 — then a holiday called Armistice Day — top-ranked Army had routed No. 5 Notre Dame, 59-0.

“Those games were the Super Bowl of today,” said Joe Steffy, an Army team captain and lineman in the 1940s. “There was no more famous place to perform any sport than Yankee Stadium, and there was no rivalry bigger than Army and Notre Dame. Many years, it was the national championship game.”

And while there have been plenty Game(s) of the Century since then, no game probably captured the nation’s attention like the 1946 match-up between No. 1 Army and No. 2 Notre Dame.

By 1946, war veterans were back on campus setting up what sportswriters that year called the Game of the Century at Yankee Stadium between No. 1-ranked and undefeated Army and No. 2 and undefeated Notre Dame. Like many a Super Bowl to come, the hype seemed to overwhelm the participants and coaches, and a boring, tactical game ensued. With neither team taking many chances, the result was a 0-0 tie.

“I had lunch years later with Red Blaik,” Brennan said of the Army coach. “When we talked about the 1946 game, he said: ‘I choked. We should have been more aggressive. But Leahy choked, too. He did the same thing.’ ”

Most of today’s college football fans look at the game between Army and Notre Dame as a creampuff on the Irish schedule. Article’s like this remind us that the game in the Bronx is more than just another Saturday for both schools.