Former Notre Dame football star, coach Brennan dies at 93

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Terry Brennan, a star halfback on three unbeaten Notre Dame teams who was hailed as a wunderkind when he succeeded Irish coaching great Frank Leahy at just 25 years old, has died. He was 93.

The school announced his death Wednesday. Brennan died Tuesday, said the funeral home in Skokie, Illinois, handling the arrangements. He had lived in nearby Wilmette.

Brennan led the Irish in receiving and scoring as they won back-to-back national championships in 1946 (8-0-1) and 1947 (9-0) and went 9-0-1 and finished ranked No. 2 in 1948. His teammates included Heisman Trophy winners John Lujack and Leon Hart.

As both a player and coach, Brennan took part in games that rank among the biggest in Notre Dame history.

In 1946, Brennan made a key interception when the second-ranked Irish played to a 0-0 tie against No. 1 Army at packed Yankee Stadium in a matchup dubbed “The Game of the Century.”

Army drove to the Notre Dame 12, but Brennan picked off a pass at the 5. On the next play, he turned in Notre Dame’s longest run of 22 yards.

“It turned out to be kind of a dull game of the century,” he said in a 2010 interview.

Both teams finished the season unbeaten and neither played in bowls. Notre Dame was voted No. 1 in the final AP poll and Army finished No. 2.

“Most of us were young guys and didn’t realize how big it was until 10 or 20 years later,” he said.

Just over a decade later, he coached the Irish to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma in 1957 that ended the Sooners’ record 47-game winning streak.

After his playing career ended, Brennan was drafted by the NFL but instead chose to coach at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago while earning a law degree from DePaul University. After leading Mount Carmel to city championships in 1951, 1952 and 1953, Brennan was hired to coach the freshman team at Notre Dame.

A season later, Brennan was promoted to head coach in a move that shocked the college football world. Leahy had won four national titles in 11 seasons at Notre Dame, but retired due to health concerns.

Brennan started strong, with Notre Dame finishing 9-1 and ranked No. 4 in 1954 and 8-2 and No. 9 a season later. But the Irish dropped to 2-8 in 1956 despite having Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Paul Hornung, and were beaten 47-14 by Michigan State and 40-0 by Oklahoma in South Bend in what was the team’s most-lopsided loss at Notre Dame Stadium.

As a result, the school’s faculty board in control of athletics recommended Brennan be fired. But The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president of the university, decided to bring Brennan back.

Notre Dame went 7-3 the next season, finishing No. 10 and boosted by the big upset of Oklahoma.

Brennan said in 2007 that when the Irish were blown out by Oklahoma in 1956, he took some chances that didn’t work. He felt more confident of his team’s ability in 1957, so he called the game more conservatively and the defense played particularly well.

“You never play a perfect game, but I don’t think the guys made a lot of mistakes,” he said. “There were very few, if any, and that was the key.”

Brennan recalled the Oklahoma fans were shocked.

“The silence was deafening,” he said.

Brennan was fired after the Irish finished 6-4 in 1958, with the dismissal coming four days before Christmas. The move was criticized by many not only because of its timing, but supporters said Brennan was taking the fall after the school cut back on scholarships as it raised academic standards.

Brennan finished with a record of 32-18, a .640 winning percentage. He was succeeded by Joe Kuharich, another former Notre Dame player who posted a 17-23 record in four seasons.

That was the last time Brennan coached football. He served as a player conditioning coach for the Cincinnati Reds’ 1959 spring training. He worked for years in banking and investment and lived in suburban Chicago.

Brennan was preceded in death by his wife, Kel. He is survived by four son, two daughters, 25 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.