What Exactly Happened in the “Win One for the Gipper!” Game?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Spurred on by coach Knute Rockne’s halftime speech, Notre Dame player Jack Chevigny scored the winning touchdown for Notre Dame against Army and cried out “That’s for the Gipper!”

Knute Rockne’s halftime speech November 10, 1928 for Notre Dame, while trailing 6-0, has become one of the most famous speeches in the history of speeches, let alone sports speeches.

The speech supposedly featured Rockne inspiring his players by reminding them of former Notre Dame All-American George Gipp (the “Gipper”), who had died suddenly in 1920 at a young age and who had told Rockne, on his death bed that, at one point in the future, he’d like it if Rockne were to ask the guys to “win one for the Gipper.”

Notre Dame ended up winning the game 12-6.

As ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel repeats the oft-told tale:

[W]hen Notre Dame came out of that Yankee Stadium locker room at halftime 75 years ago, Rockne had inspired the Irish so much that Army scored first. Legend has it that as Jack Chevigny scored with 2:30 to play to give the Irish a 12-6 victory, he said, “That’s one for the Gipper!”

Here’s the thing – Chevigny likely DID shout out something to the effect of “this is for the Gipper.”

However, he did NOT do it to WIN the game.

No, Chevigny’s touchdown came in the third quarter to TIE the game at 6.

It was his teammate Johnny O’Brien who scored the WINNING touchdown late in the game (O’Brien did not shout anything Gipper-related).

So, certainly because Chevigny shouted out something about Gipp, HIS play has been remembered over the years as the winning touchdown, as it is a lot cooler to have the guy who shouts “this is for the Gipper” to be the one who specifically WON one “for the Gipper.”

That is not the case.

It’s still a very incredible moment in college football history, either way!

The legend is…

STATUS: False (with a large chunk of truth in there)

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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