Clash of Titans
Games featuring a future Hall of Fame coach on each sideline.
November 10, 1928: Army vs Notre Dame
Biff Jones vs Knute Rockne
Coming into the 1928 season, Knute Rockne was worried about his team.
"My second (string) team of last year, with one exception, will be my first team this year. Practically every team we played in 1927 scored on the second team in a minute and a half. Indiana scored on it in fifty seconds. Toward the end of the sea­son the boys were showing some improvement because it took one team two min­utes to score. Having greater responsibilities this year, however, these boys may do much better."
Army entered what had become its annual clash with Notre Dame with a better record than the Fighting Irish. Biff Jones's third Cadet team was 6-0 while Knute Rockne's 11th squad at his alma mater had lost road games at Wisconsin and Georgia Tech. Notre Dame was concerned about finishing with a losing record since they still had games with powerful Carnegie Tech and Southern California on its schedule.
Each coach was an alumnus of the school he coached. Jones was a 1917 gradu­ate of West Point, where he played tackle on the varsity and was elected captain his senior year. After serving as an artillery lieutenant in World War I, he became an assistant coach at his alma mater under both Charlie Daly and John McEwan.
"Win One for the Gipper"
The day before the Army game, Rockne told a half-dozen football writers about his philosophy of coaching.
I don't think a college football team can be brought to the top of its emotional pitch more than twice in a season of nine or ten games. If there are two games you've got to win, you can point for those, especially if one is the last game on the schedule. But you've got to try to take the others in stride.
Rockne had apparently decided that the next day's game against Army would be one of the "two games you've got to win" for 1928.
As the crowd estimated at 86,000 filled the stands, Rockne gathered his two-touchdown underdog team in their dank locker room in Yankee Stadium and deli­vered the most famous pregame speech in football history.
George Gipp was an All-American halfback and Notre Dame's leading rusher and passer for three straight seasons starting in 1918. During his senior year, when he was 25 years old, Gipp died of complications from strep throat.
Rockne was at Gipp's bedside during his final days. So he told his 1928 team about a final request that Gipp had made.
"I've got to go, Rock. It's all right. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong, and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for 'The Gipper.' I don't know where I'll be then, Rock, but I'll know about it, and I'll be happy."
Rockne continued, "The day before he died, Gipp asked me to wait until the sit­uation seemed hopeless, then ask a Notre Dame team to go out and beat Army for him. This is the day, and you are the team."
Line coach Ed Haley recalled, "There was no one in the room that wasn't crying. There was a moment of silence, and then all of a sudden those players ran out of the dressing room and almost tore the hinges off the door. They were all ready to kill someone."
Featured Player
The star of the 1928 Army team was 23-year-old halfback Keener "Red" Cagle. He had played four years at Southwes­tern Louisiana Institute in Lafayette where he scored 235 points from touchdowns, extra points, and field goals. That record lasted until 1989.
The native of Merryville LA also starred in bas­ketball and track and field at SLI.
When Cagle completed his four years of eligibi­lity af­ter the 1925 season, his coach concocted a plan that would enable his star to play four more years of col­lege football. He arranged with a Louisiana congress­man to secure Cagle a pres­idential appointment to the United States Mil­itary Academy.
Cagle became a starter in the Army back­field from game one, helping the Cadets to a 7-1-1 record in Coach Jones's first season in 1926 and 9-1 in 1927 when he made the consensus All-American team.
Six years out of high school and in love with a young lady back home in Lou­isiana, Cagle de­cided not to return to West Point for the 1928-29 school year. So he married his sweetheart, keeping it secret from even their families until he could notify the West Point authorities in person, which would lead to his expulsion from the Academy. But when he returned to West Point, his teammates talked him into playing another season.

Red Cagle and Coach Biff Jones

L: Game Program; R: Jack Chevigny carries the ball for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame was inspired, but so was Army. The best the Fighting Irish could do was hold the Cadets to a scoreless tie at the half.
The Irish frittered away an excellent opportunity to score early in the second quarter, which began with Johnny Niemec punting out of bounds on Army's two. The Cadets immediately kicked out of danger to their 38.
Fred Collins ran through left tackle for a first down on the 16, where he was tackled by Chris Cagle. Collins carried twice more to the 11 and then the five. After Jack Chevigny got a yard at center, Collins fumbled as he was going over the goal line, and Cadet John Murrell recovered for a touchback to put the ball on the 20.
Neither team threatened the rest of the first half.
Army Finally Scores
Army took a 6-0 lead in the third quarter on a drive that started with Chris Ca­gle's 20y run followed by his long pass to Edwin Messinger to the Notre Dame 13. Niemiec saved a touchdown with a diving tackle. But that only delayed the inevitable. Three plays later, Army faced fourth and a half yard for a first down. Cagle hit the center of the line for a short gain. A measurement made it first-and-goal at the three.
The Irish almost made a goal-line stand as Cagle carried twice for just a yard. An offside penalty on the defense moved the ball a half-yard from the goal. Finally, John Murrell smashed into the end zone. The extra point attempt failed. Army 6 Notre Dame 0
Notre Dame Ties the Score
Later in the period, Notre Dame drove 46y to tie the score. The biggest gain came on Fred Collins' 19y on an end around to the 24. Three plays later, 5'7" 170lb HB Jack Chevigny, the "Hammond (IN) Flash," dove over tacklers for a first down at the 12 where Cagle stopped him. Three more runs made it fourth down and a half yard to go for a first down. Collins got it on the two.
Army continued to give ground grudgingly. The Cadets threw Collins for a 2y loss, but he gained back the yardage on the next play. Then his 1y gain made it fourth and a half yard to go for the touchdown. Chevigny dove over the line into the end zone to tie the score. After he scored, he got off the ground and shouted, "That's one for 'The Gipper!'"

L: Chris Cagle intercepts Notre Dame pass. R: Chevigny scores to tie the game.
Desperation Pass Scores Winning Touchdown
The tense standoff continued deep into the fourth quarter. Notre Dame received a punt on its 42 and started a march deep into Army territory.
Two runs gave the Notre Dame a first down on Army's 47. Chevigny, on a dou­ble reverse, ran to Army's 30. After faking a pass, Chevigny made a first down on the 16. Then disaster struck. A bad pass from center rolled back to the 33 where Chevigny sacrificed his body to recover the loose ball. Pinned beneath multiple Ca­dets, he suffered a concussion and had to be carried off the field.
Rockne replaced Chevigny with Bill Drew while 6'4" Johnny O'Brien, a hurdler on the track team, threw his blanket aside and replaced Johnny Colrick at left end. It was his first appearance on the field that afternoon. O'Brien was an exceptional pass receiver but otherwise lack the physical qualifications Rockne demanded of a regular end.
Facing second and 25, Frank Carrideo threw two straight incompletions. That set up the winning touchdown play.
Niemiec threw a wobbly pass downfield to O'Brien, who had gone downfield and veered toward the right sideline. He stretched to get his hands on the ball at the 15, juggled it, and gained possession at the 10. He raced past two defenders, stumbled, and dove into the end zone out in the right field sector of Yankee Stadium that Babe Ruth patrolled in the summer. The sensational pass and catch put Notre Dame ahead 12-6 with less than two minutes to play.
Watching from the sideline, Chevigny yelled, "That's one for 'The Gipper' too."
When O'Brien got up, he saw Rockne beckoning him to the sideline, where the coach threw a blanket over his receiver and grabbed his hand and shook it vigo­rously. The rarely used end would forever be known as "One Play O'Brien."

L: Jack Chevigny gains 25y. R: John Niemiec back to pass for Notre Dame.
Army wasn't about to roll over and play dead. Cagle took the ensuing kickoff on his 25 and "ran through the whole Irish team" in the gathering dusk before Collins, the last man who had a shot at him, made a diving tackle on the Notre Dame 30.
Fighting exhaustion, Cagle threw an incompletion, then swirled around end for a first down on the 10. After Army was penalized 5y for delaying the game, Cagle threw another incompletion. Richard Hutchinson replaced Cagle and threw an incompletion, which in that era earned a 5y penalty. Undaunted, Hutchinson con­nected with Herbert Gibner to put the ball back on the 10. But the final whistle sounded taps for Army before they could run another play.
The West Point yearbook for 1928-29 started its report of the game like this:
But one second more, oh for a second, was the cry which rose from the Corps as the game ended with the ball on Notre Dame's half-yard line [actually the 10] and the score 12-6 in favor of the Irish. The feature of the game was Cagle's 55-yard run from kickoff in the last minute of play. For a moment it looked as though he would score, but they finally brought him down on the 20-yard line [actually the 30].
Sunday night, 5,000 people gathered at the Notre Dame gymnasium to welcome the triumphant Irish back home.
The 1928 Fighting Irish would finish their season with a 5-4 record, Rockne's worst in 13 seasons as head coach. The four losses were 1/3 of his 12 total losses. Yet on that one afternoon in Yankee Stadium, they pulled the upset.
Notre Dame Football Review - 1928
Rockne: Idol of American Football,
 Robert Harron (1931)
Notre Dame 1990 Football Press Guide
College Football’s Most Memorable Games, 1913 Through 1990: The Stories of 54 History-Making Contests
, Fred Eisenhammer and Eric B. Sondheimer (1992)