Looking back at the Pitt-Notre Dame rivalry
Pitt has played Notre Dame 67 times — more than any opponent other than West Virginia, Penn State and Syracuse. Finding the most memorable wasn't easy, but we came up with five, with the help of author Sam Sciullo, who wrote the book “Pitt Football Vault,” and senior associate athletic director E.J. Borghetti, whose father, Ernest, was an All-American tackle at Pitt in 1963.
1. Nov. 6, 1982— Pitt Stadium, 20-Notre Dame 31, 1-Pitt 16
In an attempt to motivate his players, who were 10-point underdogs, Notre Dame coach Gerry Faust compiled a list of the greatest upsets in Irish history and passed it out before the game. In Dan Marino's senior year, top-ranked Pitt was undefeated and coming off three consecutive 11-1 seasons. But Notre Dame rallied to win in front of 60,162 people, holding Marino without a touchdown pass for the first time in 19 games. The deciding plays for Faust's greatest victory at Notre Dame were a 76-yard draw by freshman running back Allen Pinkett and a flea-flicker from running back Phil Carter to quarterback Blair Kiel to wide receiver Joe Howard, the first time that play worked in three tries. Notre Dame also took advantage of fumbles by Pitt's Jeff Casper and Julius Dawkins. “They felt they lost the game for us,” first-year Pitt coach Foge Fazio said.
2. Nov. 15, 1975— Pitt Stadium, Pitt 34, 9-Notre Dame 20
Junior running back Tony Dorsett ran for 303 yards, a Pitt record and the most against Notre Dame to this day. Dorsett also holds the NCAA record for most career yards against an opponent (754). Among the 56,480 in attendance included Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who was scouting Pitt for next week's game. Maybe Paterno also wanted to see Rudy Ruettiger, the legendary Notre Dame walk-on who made his only appearance for the Irish the week before against Georgia Tech. Pitt's victory stole the show. The Panthers broke an 11-game losing streak to Notre Dame and recorded coach Johnny Majors' first victory at Pitt against a ranked opponent. “No other win in my entire career compares to this,” he said, a year before topping it by winning the national championship.
3. Nov. 13, 1999— Pitt Stadium, Pitt 37, Notre Dame 27
Pitt was in the midst of losing five of its final seven games and Notre Dame coach Bob Davie was under fire, but those among the 61,000 who attended the final game at Pitt Stadium won't forget it. Students carried the goal post (recovered by police) and coach Walt Harris off the field. Later, Harris was prophetic with this quote: “I just wish we didn't have to tear a stadium down to get them to come to a game. I don't know what we are going to do for an encore.” After the game, Marshall Goldberg, an All-American running back on Pitt's national championship teams of 1936 and 1937, rode onto the field in a Brinks truck, got out, opened an elegant brown box and quickly shut it. The idea was to capture the air (and aura) of Pitt Stadium and reopen the box the next season in the first game at Three Rivers Stadium.
4. Nov. 1, 2008— Notre Dame Stadium, Pitt 36, Notre Dame 33 (4 OT)
The longest game in the history of both schools was settled by kicker Conor Lee's five field goals, four in the extra sessions. Quarterback Pat Bostick, filling in for injured starter Bill Stull, threw three interceptions but forced overtime by tossing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jon Baldwin with 2:22 left in regulation. LeSean McCoy rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. Bostick, whose father, Patrick, brought an entourage to the game that included his son's midget league coaches, grew up in a Catholic family, so the game meant a lot to him. “I was nervous as all get-out. I didn't play too well, but it was a good fight.” Bostick credited linebacker Scott McKillop for helping keep Pitt in the game. “He embodied every bit of the fight and no-quit attitude we had on our team.”
5. Nov. 13, 2004— Notre Dame Stadium, Pitt 41, Notre Dame 38
Tyler Palko became the first quarterback to throw five touchdown passes against Notre Dame — a feat matched by USC's Matt Leinart two weeks later — and led the game-winning drive that ended with Josh Cummings' 32-yard field goal with one second left. Nonetheless, everyone wants to talk about the profanity Palko blurted out — and later apologized for — in his nationally televised postgame interview. Palko, who now has a financial services practice in Pittsburgh, said people remind him of it “every time they talk to me.” After the game, coach Walt Harris held up the game program that featured on the cover Pitt wide receiver Billy Gaines, who died in a fall in summer 2003. “This game was dedicated to the memory of Billy Gaines, who was with us today and provided us the impetus to get the job done,” Harris said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Sestak kicks off U.S. Senate campaign — with a couple missteps
- Owner of Strip District nightclub Ivy agrees to close after shooting
- 11 Ligonier Township residents rescued by boat from floodwaters
- Police: Suspect in 1970 cold case homicide of 17-year-old dies days before charges filed
- U.S. clears police officer in Ferguson case, criticizes police force
- Penguins need trade-deadline acquisitions to bring toughness
- Shania’s first tour in 11 years includes Pittsburgh stop
- PennDOT alerts drivers to numerous road closures due to flooding, debris
- Blue Jays’ Martin has ‘nothing but praise’ for former Pirates teammates
- ‘Time for bold change,’ Wolf says in outlining $30B state budget
- Artist born without arms, legs gives Hampton students peek into her world