Friday, November 2, 2012

No. 4 Notre Dame to Face Pitt Panthers at Home

Jeff Samardzija's first career touchdown came against Pittsburgh on this diving catch to open the 2005 season. [Credits: AP]

[] No. 4 Notre Dame returns to South Bend this week to face another common rival the Pittsburgh Panthers. The Irish and Panthers have met 67 times, with Notre Dame holding a 46-20-1 advantage. Pitt is actually the fifth most common opponent ever for Notre Dame behind Navy, Purdue, USC and Michigan State.

Notre Dame has beat the Panthers in the past two meetings, but this series has been close in recent years with seven of the last eight meetings being decided by eight points or fewer.

This is one of my favorite rivalries, personally, as I was born in Pittsburgh, and my father’s first Notre Dame game as a child was a Notre Dame-Pitt game in Pittsburgh.

Here is a little history behind this classic rivalry.

The series first began in the year 1909.

The first ever meeting between the two teams ended in a 6-0 Irish win.

The first five meetings ended in four Panther losses and one tie. In 1932 the Panthers earned their first victory over the Irish with a 12-0 win. It was the first of three consecutive shutout wins for Pittsburgh over Notre Dame.

In 1936, for the first time both Notre Dame and Pittsburgh entered the contest as ranked opponents. The ninth-ranked Panthers prevailed in this contest, beating the seventh-ranked Irish 26-0.

Frank Leahy’s first meeting with Pittsburgh in the fall of 1943 was a 41-0 victory. This win was the start of eight straight wins for the Irish over the Panthers. During this streak, the Irish would go on to outscore the Panthers 302-15.

In 1952 the Panthers ended Notre Dame’s eight-game series win streak with a 22-19 upset over the eighth ranked Irish.

After two previous wins over the Panthers, in 1966 Ara Parseghian’s top-ranked Irish crushed Pittsburgh 40-0 on their way to winning the national championship. The win was the third game in Notre Dame’s 11-game winning streak over the Panthers from 1964-74.

Dan Devine’s first crack at the Panthers in 1975  ended with his ninth-ranked Irish losing 34-20 to an unranked Pittsburgh squad. Panther legend Tony Dorsett rushed for an opponent record 303 yards in the Pitt win.

In the following year’s match up in 1976 Dorsett rushed for 181 yards to lead Pittsburgh to the 31-10 win and to the eventual national title.

In 1982, freshman Allen Pinkett scored on a 76-yard touchdown run to help Notre Dame upset Dan Marino and the #1 ranked Pittsburgh Panthers by a score of 31-16.

With starting quarterback Terry Andrysiak hurt, sophomore backup Tony Rice made his first appearance in 1987 and lead an Irish rally that just fell short as Pitt held on to get the 30-22 victory.

In 1988, a couple of red-zone fumbles helped the eventual national champion Irish hold on and beat Pitt 30-20.

In Coach Lou Holtz’s next to last  home game at Notre Dame (1996)  the Irish cruised to a 60-6 over the hapless Panthers.

The Panther’s send out old Pitt Stadium in style 1999 as they beat  Notre Dame 37-27.

In a rare shining moment during the 2003 football season, Julius Jones rushed for 262 yards in helping Notre Dame beat Pittsburgh 20-14.

Charlie Weis’ Notre Dame debut came in 2005 against Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. After giving up an opening drive touchdown, the Irish continued on to dominate the Panthers, winning by a score of 42-21. Jeff Samardzija caught his first career touchdown with an incredible diving catch.

It took 99 years for the Irish and Panthers to play their first overtime contest (2008).  The Panthers came out victorious  after four overtimes by a score of 36-33 when Brandon Walker’s final field goal attempt went wide.

And finally, last year (2011) Jonas Gray ran for a career-long 79-yard touchdown to give the Irish the lead early, but it would be a late fourth quarter touchdown pass from Tommy Rees to Tyler Eifert that would secure the 15-12 win for Notre Dame.

The Irish faithful are looking forward to the game against Pitt on Saturday, hoping to see a game that gives the Irish a little breathing room compared to last week’s match up against Oklahoma. A win over the Panthers would improve Notre Dame to 9-0 for the first time since 1993. It would also give the Irish nine straight victories to open a season for the 16th time in school history.

Notre Dame enters this week ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings. It equals the highest Irish ranking during the BCS era since Notre Dame was No. 3 in the standings released the weeks of Oct. 19 and Oct. 26, 2002.

Notre Dame is 9-0 under Brian Kelly when they don’t commit a turnover in a game. The Irish have played three  turnover-free games so far this year, including road games at No. 10 Michigan State and No. 8 Oklahoma.


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