Palko becomes 1st QB to throw 5 TDs vs. Irish

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko quickly went from celebrating a record-setting day against Notre Dame to apologizing for a slip of the tongue.

That typified the range of emotions for the Panthers and Irish in a see-saw game Saturday.

Palko became the first quarterback to throw five touchdown passes against the Irish and Josh Cummings kicked a 32-yard field goal with one second left to give Pittsburgh a 41-38 victory, the Panthers' first at Notre Dame since 1986.

Palko used an expletive during a live postgame interview with NBC. While meeting later with reporters, Palko apologized before taking any questions.

"Before I start, I lost my composure on the field and said something in the heat of the moment," Palko said. "That's not me. That's not Tyler. It was just a heat of the moment kind of thing. I apologize to my teammates, my family and anybody that was watching."

NBC Sports announcer Tom Hammond apologized on-air after the interview was over.

The Panthers (6-3), who became bowl eligible with the victory, snapped a six-game winless streak at Notre Dame Stadium. It was Pittsburgh's second win in 13 games against the Irish, and the Panthers' 41 points were their most ever against Notre Dame.

"I can't describe the feeling to come to Notre Dame and put the last points on the board," said Cummings, who missed wide left from 51 yards at the end of regulation a week earlier in a loss to Syracuse.

Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris said the Panthers won the game for Billy Gaines, a receiver who died last summer. A photo of Gaines being tackled by a swarm of Notre Dame tacklers was on the cover of the game program, which Harris held up when he entered the postgame news conference.

"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.

Palko fumbled the ball away on Pitt's first possession but then guided the Panthers to four straight touchdowns. He had just one TD pass in the second half, throwing a 9-yarder to Erik Gill with 2:24 left to put the Panthers ahead 38-35.

The Irish (6-4) tied the game with a 45-yard field goal by D.J. Fitzpatrick with 1:11 left but couldn't stop the Panthers.

On Pitt's next play, Palko threw to Gill for what appeared to be a short gain. But Irish linebacker Mike Goolsby tried to strip the ball and Gill broke free for a 36-yard gain. Palko completed two more passes to Gill on the drive, helping set up the winning field

Palko was 26-of-42 for 334 yards, with no interceptions. Eleven quarterbacks have passed for four TDs against the Irish, most recently Purdue's Kyle Orton earlier this season.

Harris said Palko showed his typical determination.

"He's one of those guys who never lost. Time just ran out," he said.

Time didn't run out against the Irish, though.

Palko told his teammates that the final drive is what the players live for.

"I told the guys, 'You'll remember this for the rest of your lives. You'll remember this, so make sure it's a good feeling,'" he said. "I looked every one of them in the eyes. I saw the look in their eyes, they saw the look in my eyes. We were just kind of sick of not coming up big in big games."

The Irish lost three games at home for a second consecutive season, just the second time that's happened. The Irish have lost three home games in a season only eight times.

Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham said the Irish didn't give their seniors an appropriate send-off.

"Today was disappointing because we knew that they really wanted to walk out of here with a victory and we didn't give it to them," Willingham said.

The Irish secondary struggled throughout, repeatedly giving up big plays and making mistakes that kept Pitt drives going. On Pitt's final scoring drive, the Irish secondary was called for pass interference twice -- including one that wiped out an interception.

"Our young men had the opportunities to make plays and we didn't make them," Willingham said.

The Irish were called for a season-high 10 penalties for 119 yards. Willingham said it was difficult for him to see and left it to reporters to decide if the calls were questionable.

"But it's the way the game goes," he said.

Brady Quinn passed for three touchdowns for Notre Dame, including a 36-yarder to Matt Shelton midway through the fourth quarter. Quinn and Shelton also connected on a pair of 46-yarders to set up two first-half scores.

Quinn was 16-of-26 for 259 yards, with two interceptions. Shelton had three catches for a career-high 128 yards receiving.

Willingham said the Irish will have to get over the loss and get ready for top-ranked USC in two weeks.

"As bitter, as painful as the defeat is, they'll continue to work," he said.