From "Out of Bounds"

Joe Montana confers with Coach Dan Devine.

Joe Montana confers with Coach Dan Devine.

 

The following is an accout of how the Irish became "The Green Machine." It's from Weaver and Bonifer's Out of Bounds.

Devine had gotten the idea from a letter amidst the huge stack of mail waiting on his desk his first day at Notre Dame: a former student manager under Frank Leahy wanted to see the Irish wear green again. The new coach was intrigued by the notion and kept it in mind. Two-and-a-half years later he would use it with maximum possible effect.

In 1977 Notre Dame was facing a mid-season crisis with Southern Cal. After a sputtering start the team had shown signs of life, and the game with the Trojans loomed as an acid test. As he does before all big games, Devine looked for a psychological sword.

He had called Willie Fry, one of the captains, into his office several weeks earlier and asked how he'd feel about changing to green jerseys. Fry had been lukewarm to the idea. ("I thought the man had gone over the edge," he recalled later. "I tried, but I just couldn't picture us in green.") But Devine had gone ahead with his plan. On the Wednesday before USC he invited Fry, Steve Orsini and Terry Eurick - the other two captains - to the football auditorium. When the trio arrived Ross Browner was on stage, modeling the most fantastic green and gold football get-up they had ever seen. Their glee was unbridled. (Willie Fry: "I said, 'Bring on USC!' I wanted to play them right there.") The coach huddled with the four players and told them of his scheme. They vowed to keep it a secret.

After Friday's practice Irish Tennis Coach Tom Fallon serenaded the team in its dressing room with a number of Irish ballads, among them The Wearin' of the Green. Then Devine spoke to the players of the torments suffered in years past by the Irish people. He spoke of their fierce pride. he told them what it meant to wear green during the Black and Tan oppression. And he reminded them of their own proud ethnic backgrounds, that their ancestors, like the Irish, had to fight for their beliefs. It was a speech that would gain significance the next day.

That night at the pep rally Fry urged all the fans to wear green to the game. Basketball coach Digger Phelps did the same, and concluded his speech by whipping the crowd into a chant of "Green Machine! Green Machine!" Some of the fans looked a mite puzzled, but the players were too busy with thoughts of the Trojans to make any deductions.

Saturday .... Before the game warm-ups were taken in the standard blue jerseys. Only when the players returned to the locker room ten minutes before kick-off did they see the new uniforms hanging in their stalls. The discovery touched off a celebration. "Like kids on Christmas morning," is the way one coach described it. The cheer of the night before made sense now, and the team picked it up: "Green Machine! Green Machine! Green Machine! ... "

And when the sartorially splendid Irish stormed the field ... well, there's only one way to describe fan reaction: 59,075 people turned simultaneously to the person next to them and shouted, "They're wearing green!"

"I saw them come out screaming in those jerseys," said USC linebacker Clay Matthews,  and I knew we were in trouble." And indeed they were. If the Irish had come out pulling howitzers the Trojans wouldn't have been more surprised - or more defenseless. They were stymied at every turn. Linebacker Bob Golic jammed up the middle on defense. Joe Montana stoked the offense to full throttle. And Ted Burgmeier was underfoot all day long.

The five-ten cornerback bedeviled the Trojans by: returning an interception thirty-eight yards with a classic broken-field run; running a faked field goal attempt for a key first down; again from his position as holder turning a muffed snap from center into a two-point conversion by sprinting wide and dinking a short pass to Tom Domin; and making eight tackles. Folks in the stands were pulling hamstrings just from watching Ted go.

The final score of 49 to 19 was just about the size of it. The Irish struck a dizzying emotional peak before the game and would have steamrolled anyone in their way. USC was the unlucky victim. For the first time that season, Notre Dame realized its awesome potential. And why not? It was easy wearing green.

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