Wannstedt, Weis reuniting at Heinz Field
Dave Wannstedt and Charlie Weis began their college coaching careers Sept. 3, 2005, on opposite sidelines at Heinz Field.
Now, four years after Pitt's humbling, 42-21 loss to Notre Dame in that nationally televised debut, one of them has a top-10 team, and the other coach is firmly on the hot seat.
"We've definitely come a long way," Pitt fifth-year senior defensive tackle Gus Mustakas said.
No. 8 Pitt (8-1), with its highest ranking in two decades, will play host to Notre Dame (6-3) on Saturday night in their first meeting at Heinz Field since that memorable 2005 opener, when the Brady Quinn-led Fighting Irish ruined Wannstedt's debut by rolling up more than 500 total yards on the 23rd-ranked Panthers.
"That was a tough game for us," sixth-year middle linebacker Adam Gunn said. "It was a wake-up call."
Back then, Weis was the hot-shot former NFL assistant poised to return his alma mater to national prominence, while Wannstedt was on his way to going 16-19 in his first three years at Pitt.
"We found out real quick that we had work to do," Wannstedt said. "We were probably just a little bit ahead of ourselves."
Both coaches have similar records at their respective schools (Weis 35-24, Wannstedt 33-24), but Weis, coming off a 23-21 loss to Navy, is under fire. Wannstedt is a candidate for numerous national coach of the year awards.
The Fighting Irish were outrushed, 348-60, while losing to Navy in South Bend, Ind., for the second time in three years. Before then, a ranked Notre Dame team had never lost to an unranked Navy team, winning 41 consecutive since 1936.
The loss heightened calls for Weis' ouster.
The Fighting Irish went 3-9 two years ago and fell to Syracuse during last year's 7-6 season.
And all this with arguably one of the nation's top quarterbacks, Jimmy Clausen, and the elite receiving tandem of Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.
Notre Dame had three turnovers — at the Navy 1 and 5 — and missed two field goals against the Midshipmen.
Weis said the game tape revealed many culprits.
"Just go through the game," Weis said. "Without being totally condescending and demeaning, let them know, 'You want to know why you lose• Here's why you lose,' and go right down the list. ... For the guys that really care — which I think will be most of them — they're not going to feel very good about what they're going to see."
While Notre Dame's BCS hopes are squashed, Pitt closes out its conference schedule against West Virginia and No. 5 Cincinnati in its bid to win the Big East crown. The Panthers have won five consecutive to breach the AP top 10 for the first time since a five-week span in 1989.
Pitt moved as high as No. 7 on Oct. 24, 1989. But the Panthers lost the following week, dropped to 14th, and it took them 20 years to crack the top 10 again.
And the team that beat Pitt to begin its two-decade, top-10 drought• Notre Dame.