|'57 Irish captain says current team could learn from his ordeal|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 15 November 2007 12:54|
He and his teammates went through it 51 years ago.
Just like this year's squad, the 1956 team was part of some embarrassing losses. They were beaten 47-14 at home by second-ranked Michigan State, which then was the worst loss in Notre Dame Stadium. It was topped a week later when top-ranked Oklahoma beat the Irish 40-0, a loss that still stands as the worst ever at Notre Dame Stadium.
The team, which opened the season ranked No. 3 in the country, lost five straight, which was then the worst in school history, and finished with a 2-8 record, which along with the 1960 team that had the same record, stood as the worst in school history until this year.
``It was a disastrous year. In fact I still have the scars from it,'' Sullivan said. ``We went out each week expecting to win. We didn't go out thinking, 'We're going to get beat again.' We didn't. I don't know how the present boys are doing it, but I know it's a very difficult thing to do.''
This year's team is 1-9 and lost 38-0 to both Michigan and USC, the loss to the Trojans ranking as the second worst home loss for the Irish. Notre Dame's 20-6 win at UCLA ended a seven-game losing streak, the second longest losing streak in school history. The Irish also have lost a school-record six straight at home and could finish winless at home for the first time since going 0-3-1 in 1933 if they lose to Duke on Saturday.
Tight end John Carlson, one of the captains this year, said he doesn't think the streaks are important.
``There have been so many things that we've had to deal with this year, streaks that have ended and different records, that we don't necessarily want to be connected to. But it's the nature of college football,'' Carlson said.
Sullivan feels nothing but sympathy for this year's team. He has a message, though, for those returning next year: things can turn around quickly.
``It certainly is possible to come out of the depths of hell and come back,'' he said.
Despite losing the 1956 Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung to graduation, the '57 team bounced back with a 7-3 season and registered one of the most surprising victories in Notre Dame history. On Nov. 16, 1957, a year after their worst home loss, the Irish traveled to Oklahoma and won 7-0 to end the Sooners' NCAA-record winning streak at 47 games.
Coach Charlie Weis said he talked with Jim Morse, the captain of the 1956 team, about using the 1957 season as motivation to help inspire next year's team.
``I'll use anything I can use as a lesson in life,'' Weis said. ``There's a way things can happen. I think it's definitely something I would broach.''
Sullivan said as painful as the 1956 was, it taught him a life lesson.
``I think the 1956 season helped me endure a lot of things in life that were tough,'' he said. ``Because I know you can come out of it and things can be good again.''