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On This Date in Sports November 10, 1928: Win one for the Gipper

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Knute Rockne delivers the halftime speech that sets the standards for all future halftime speeches. With the Irish locked in a scoreless tie against Army at Yankee Stadium. The legendary Notre Dame coach urges his team to “Win One for the Gipper”. It was in reference to a former player who died in 1920. The speech worked as Notre Dame won the game 12-6.

George Gipp was a star running back for Notre Dame. In 1920 he was the first player to be named a first-team All-American from Notre Dame. The 25-year-old was recruited to play for the Irish despite never having played organized football. Sadly, after being named to the Walter Camp All-American team, Gipp affectionally nicknamed “The Gipper” became sickened with Pneumonia and Strep Throat. Such illnesses were often fatal at that time, leading to George Gipp’s death on December 14, 1920. Just before he passed away, Gipp told Rockne that use his stop as inspiration to rally the team.

The 1928 season was not classic Notre Dame season as they went into their game against Army with a record of 4-2. While the Cadets coached by Biff Jones were the best team in the nation at 6-0. The words seemed to fall flat at the start of the third quarter, as Army broke the scoreless tie with a touchdown early in the third quarter set up by a long kickoff return by Red Cagle. The Irish answered as the score remained deadlocked 6-6 into the fourth quarter. With dusk settling over the stadium in the Bronx, Knute Rockne called upon Johnny O’Brien to enter the game for the first time. O’Brien reeled in a 32-yard pass from Johnny Niemiec to give the Irish a 12-6 lead. Army would not go down without a fight as the Irish had to make one big stop at the goal line to preserve the win. The Irish would finish the season with a record of 5-4, while Army ended the season at 8-2.

The famed speech took on legendary status and was a key moment in the 1940 biopic “Knute Rockne, All-American.” The role of George Gipp was played by future President Ronald Reagan.