PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Notre Dame hired Charlie Weis exactly for
this. The innovative and imaginative offense. The confused looks on
the faces of the opposing defense. And, yes, all those points on
Brady Quinn ran Weis' Patriots-perfect offense like a college
version of Tom Brady, leading touchdown drives on five of underdog
Notre Dame's first six possessions Saturday in a 42-21 rout of No.
23 Pitt that was over by halftime.
The anticipated matchup of two former NFL coaches turned college
head coaches -- Weis, the former New England offensive wizard, vs.
Dave Wannstedt, a one-time defensive coordinator and the former
coach of the Bears and Dolphins -- was as big as mismatch as the
Pitt's defense, effectively the same as that which allowed
nearly 420 yards per game even while going 8-4 last season, had no
answer for Quinn's Weis-designed five-receiver sets, screen passes
to running backs, and throws to big tight ends isolated against
Except for one interception, Quinn couldn't have run the Irish
offense much better while going 18-of-27 for 233 yards and two
touchdowns, one to running back Darius Walker for 51 yards on Notre
Dame's first score and another to Jeff Samardzija for 19 yards.
Notre Dame outgained Pitt 502-323, helped by a 275-103 edge in
rushing largely accumulated after building a big lead.
Walker, coming off a strong freshman season in which he rushed
for 821 yards, carried 20 times for 100 yards and a 2-yard
touchdown that started Notre Dame's decisive 28-point second
quarter that made it 35-13 at halftime.
Hired by alma mater Notre Dame before New England's third Super
Bowl victory in four seasons, Weis promised to bring a pro-style
offense filled with creative gadgetry that isn't always seen in
college football. At least for one night, he certainly delivered.
The Panthers (0-1) certainly didn't expect all this, not with 18
starters back from the first team to win at Notre Dame in 19
seasons and most of its famous alumni -- Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino,
Mike Ditka -- gathered to celebrate Wannstedt's return as head
With a Top 25 ranking, a schedule filled with winnable games and
polished playmaker Tyler Palko at quarterback, Pitt expected a big
start to an excellent season. Instead, it was a huge letdown, with
a sold-out Heinz Field half-empty before the end of the third
quarter. Some of those 66,451 fans leaving early could be heard
wondering if Pitt was so wise to jettison former head coach Walt
Harris, an accomplished offensive coach, after five consecutive
Wannstedt is the first Pitt coach to lose his debut since Mike
Gottfried's Panthers lost to Maryland 13-10 in 1986, and the most
recent comparable loss by a debuting coach was Carl DePasqua's 42-8
loss to UCLA in 1969.
For Notre Dame, the Weis era opened much like the Ara era. In
1964, new coach Ara Parseghian's Irish went to Wisconsin to meet a
quality opponent that had beaten them the year before in South
Bend, and won 31-7. Pitt won at Notre Dame last year, starting the
Irish on a season-ending three-game losing streak that led to
former coach Tyrone Willingham's firing.
For Weis, the game was strikingly familiar to his last visit to
Heinz Field nine months ago, when after losing to the Steelers
convincingly during the season, his Patriots offense manhandled
Pittsburgh's defense in a 41-27 win that wasn't that close.
This one wasn't either, even though Pitt opened early leads of
7-0 and 10-7 in probably the Panthers' most awaited and ballyhooed
season opener since new coach Foge Fazio's 1982 team, led by
Marino, edged North Carolina 7-6 in their opener.
Palko (17-of-30, 181 yards, one TD, one interception) didn't
play nearly as well as he did in becoming the first player to throw
five touchdown passes against Notre Dame, partly because Notre Dame
had the ball so often and scored most of the time it did.
The Panthers didn't even get the ball until midway through the
third quarter following a 20-play Irish drive that ended with
Rashon Powers-Neal's third scoring run of the night, none longer
than 9 yards. The Irish overcame a third-and-25 during the drive.
Now, Pitt must be wondering how quickly it can bounce back from
this. The Panthers have only five days off before playing again
Friday night at Ohio U.
Notre Dame beat Pitt for the 12th time in 14 meetings and the
sixth time in their last seven games in Pittsburgh. The Irish also
were underdogs when they won there two years ago.
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