show

Football

Greatest Moments

On October 13, 1951, SMU traveled to South Bend, Indiana to take on the high-powered Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The Mustangs had never beaten the Irish; actually, only one Southwest Conference team had, Texas in 1934. The game was broadcast to a national television audience with an estimated 44 million Americans watching. America looked on as Fred Benners led the Mustangs to their first win over Notre Dame in one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.

From 1947 through 1950, SMU had relied heavily on the running abilities of Doak Walker and Kyle Rote, but in 1951 neither of them was going to be there for the team anymore. That season, SMU became a team that lived and died by the passing game. SMU had not seen passing like this since the days of Ray Morrison's aerial circus. Fred Benners was the man behind center for Coach Rusty Russell's Mustangs, and he drove opposing coaches crazy with his ability to make every possible throw a quarterback would need to make.

With 58,240 fans looking on in Notre Dame Stadium, Benners put on a passing display the likes of which Notre Dame had never seen before. He got the Mustangs on the board early and seemed to stay one step ahead of Coach Frank Leahy's team all day. He hit Benton Musslewhite for a 57-yard bomb to give SMU a 7-0 lead. When Notre Dame came back to tie the score, Benners struck again, this time hooking up with Rusty Russell, Jr. for 37 yards and a touchdown.

As the game went back and forth, SMU never let the Irish sustain any momentum. After Notre Dame tied the score at 14, it appeared that they had finally found their groove. However, Benners, once again, stepped up to make the big play. He threw a bullet to Ben White who was able to weave his way 31 yards for a touchdown. The extra point attempt was missed, but SMU still led 20-14.

In typical Notre Dame fashion, the Irish marched back down the field to tie the game, also failing to convert the extra point. With the score tied, Notre Dame regained possession and was moving towards the winning score. However, All-America Dick Hightower forced and recovered a fumble to give Benners and company one more shot for the win.

Benners did not waste any time moving the Mustangs into scoring position. From the Notre Dame four yard-line, Benners called for a screen pass. The play was executed to perfection as Benners dumped the ball into the arms of Pat Knight who followed a wall of blockers into the end zone for the winning score. It was a thrilling 27-20 victory for the Mustangs as they had traveled to the most feared stadium in college football and defeated the legendary Fighting Irish before a national television audience.

When the final stats were tallied, the Mustangs had only gained 21 yards net rushing the entire day. SMU's first 26 plays were passes. When Benners finally did call a running play, it was such a shock that Jerry Norton was able to gain 36 yards through a bewildered Notre Dame defense. Benners had accounted for nearly the entire offensive output as he completed 22 of 42 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns. It was the third time in his career that he had a four touchdown day, and to this day he remains the only SMU player ever to throw four touchdowns in a game three times.

An associate of Coach Leahy said after the game, "Hell, coach, all that Benners could do was pass." Leahy responded by saying, "Yes, and the only thing Caruso could do was sing." Benners finished the 1951 season the ninth ranked passer in the country. His performance against Notre Dame is one of the finest by a quarterback in school history. His abilities helped lead the Mustangs to their first victory over the Irish in one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.

THE COUNTDOWN
No. 90 :: First School Win (1915)
No. 89 :: Rutledge sets two school records (2003)
No. 88 :: Phillips 100 yard INT (1984)
No. 87 :: McCown completes 19 straight (1999)
No. 86 :: Brownlee kicks 57 yd. field goal (1985)
No. 85 :: Bennett records first career win (2002)
No. 84 :: SMU closes out the Cotton Bowl (1999)
No. 83 :: Ownby Stadium opens (1926)
No. 82 :: James sets SWC record (1982)
No. 81 :: Stewart named All-American (1993)
No. 80 :: Briggs sets new Mustang mark (2002)
No. 79 :: SMU defeats Arkansas 31-9 (1997)
No. 78 :: The 1980 Holiday Bowl (1980)
No. 77 :: Hopkins records 4 INTs (1981)
No. 76 :: Pony Express heads to Japan (1983)
No. 75 :: SMU plays in first ever bowl game (1924)
No. 74 :: Hayden Fry named head coach (1962)
No. 73 :: McIlhenny leads SMU over Baylor (1982)
No. 72 :: Flanigan sets total offense record (1997)
No. 71 :: Bell inducted into CFHOF (1955)
No. 70 :: Dickerson runs wild against A&M (1980)
No. 69 :: Charles breaks freshman record (2001)
No. 68 :: Johnson sets sack record (1999)
No. 67 :: Dupard leads pouding of Texas (1985)
No. 66 :: Sanders named first All-America (1928)
No. 65 :: Rossley breaks reception record (1994)
No. 64 :: First win over Texas (1924)
No. 63 :: Gregg returns to SMU (1988)
No. 62 :: Mann leads SMU over TCU (1926)
No. 61 :: Berry defines excellence (1954)
No. 60 :: Birth of the Mustang Name (1917)
No. 59 :: Ford scores first TD in Ford (2000)
No. 58 :: Wolf sets SWC record (1992)
No. 57 :: Meredith sets SWC record (1957)
No. 56 :: Choate Anchors SMU Defense (1978)
No. 55 :: SMU downs Texas (1965)
No. 54 :: Tolbert leads win over BU (1978)
No. 53 :: SMU downs Texas in Austin (1982)
No. 52 :: Partee kicks win over Baylor (1966)
No. 51 :: Hopkins recovers Pitt fumble (1983)
No. 50 :: Dickerson scores 19 TDs (1981)
No. 49 :: Romo breaks completion record (1990)
No. 48 :: LeVias breaks reception record (1968)
No. 47 :: SMU records 400th win (1997)
No. 46 :: SMU clinches winning season (1997)
No. 45 :: Walker on Life Magazine (1948)
No. 44 :: Rote No. 1 NFL Draft Pick (1951)
No. 43 :: SMU blanks TCU (1966)
No. 42 :: SMU downs UNT on Homecoming (1989)
No. 41 :: SMU RUNS over Razorbacks (1980)
No. 40 :: Richardson sets rushing record (1968)
No. 39 :: Wolf breaks NCAA record (1989)
No. 38 :: SMU downs Arkansas (1984)
No. 37 :: The Decision (1945)
No. 36 :: Doak Walker Day at SMU (1998)
No. 35 :: SMU Upsets A&M (1974)
No. 34 :: SMU Ties Ohio State (1978)
No. 33 :: SMU ties Penn State (1948)
No. 32 :: The Army game (1928)
No. 31 :: The TCU Game (1947)
No. 30 :: SMU comeback against Baylor (1975)
No. 29 :: Hixson leads nation in passing (1968)
No. 28 :: Back to the Cotton Bowl (1949)
No. 27 :: Smith picks off Marino (1983)
No. 26 :: The Aloha Bowl (1984)
No. 25 :: Mustang Mania (1978)
No. 24 :: First SWC Title (1923)
No. 23 :: LeVias Baffles Texas A&M (1966)
No. 22 :: Debut Of The Pony Express (1980)
No. 21 :: Undefeated SMU Beats Texas (1947)
No. 20 :: The Ohio State game (1950)
No. 19 :: Dickerson breaks SWC record (1982)
No. 18 :: Revenge against Houston (1992)
No. 17 :: Tie versus Texas A&M (1994)
No. 16 :: Win over Notre Dame (1951)
No. 15 :: Walker career accolades (1949)
No. 14 :: SMU ranked No. 2 (1982)
No. 13 :: The House That Doak Built
No. 12 :: Bluebonnet Bowl in 1968
No. 11 :: Opening of Ford Stadium (2000)
No. 10 :: The Navy Game (1963)
No. 9 :: Carter's block against Arkansas (1982)
No. 8 :: Miracle on Mockingbird (1989)
No. 7 :: The 1949 Notre Dame Game
No. 6 :: National Champions (1935)
No. 5 :: Signing of Jerry LeVias (1965)
No. 4 :: McIlhenny Cotton Bowl TD (1983)
No. 3 :: The Miracle Man (1982)
No. 2 :: The $85,000 Pass (1935)
No. 1 :: Doak Wins the Heisman (1948)

Mustang Locker Room
  FACEBOOK
  INSTAGRAM
MISSION OF SMU ATHLETICS
In alignment with the educational mission of the University, we engage the community in meaningful ways and develop the resources necessary to graduate Student-Leaders and pursue championships. Above all else, we prepare Students for life.