SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Terry Brennan, a halfback who led Notre Dame to two national championships and later coached the Fighting Irish to a victory that ended Oklahoma’s record 47-game winning streak, died Tuesday, the university announced Wednesday. He was 93.
Brennan rushed for 1,269 yards from 1945 to 1948 at Notre Dame under legendary coach Frank Leahy, according to College Football Reference. The Milwaukee native averaged 5.8 yards per carry and helped the Irish to a 33-2-3 record over four seasons and national titles during the 1946 and 1947 national championships, the university said in a news release.
In 1946, Brennan’s key interception against top-ranked Army at Yankee Stadium preserved the No. 2 Irish’s scoreless tie. Army had driven to the Notre Dame 12-yard line in what was called “The Game of the Century,” but Brennan picked off a pass at the 5 to prevent a possible score, according to The Associated Press.
“It turned out to be kind of a dull game of the century,” Brennan said in a 2010 interview.
Brennan was only 25 when he replaced Leahy as Notre Dame’s head coach in 1953. He coached five seasons in South Bend, compiling a 32-18 record, according to College Football Reference.
Brennan led Notre Dame to a 9-1 mark in 1954, but his signature moment came on Nov. 16, 1957. The Irish were 19-point underdogs to No. 2 Oklahoma, which was riding a national record 47-game winning streak and was playing at home. Notre Dame stunned the Sooners with a 7-0 victory in Norman, Oklahoma.
“Three persons suffered heart attacks during or after the game, one of which proved fatal,” The Norman Transcript reported on Nov. 17, 1957. “The wonder is that there weren’t more.”
“You never play a perfect game, but I don’t think the guys made a lot of mistakes,” Brennan recalled in 2007. “There were very few, if any, and that was the key.”
According to the AP, Brennan said the more than 62,000 Oklahoma fans were shocked.
“The silence was deafening,” he said.
In four of his five years coaching, the Irish finished in the top 15 of the final AP football poll, finishing as high as fourth in 1954. His lone losing season was 1956 when the Irish went 2-8, but the school produced a Heisman Trophy winner that year when Paul Hornung won college football’s most prestigious award.
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