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Irish Get a Lot Out of a Little and Win

Pittsburgh dominates play, but No. 8 Notre Dame escapes with a 14-6 victory and improves to 6-0.

October 13, 2002|From Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame had only one sustained drive against Pittsburgh. It was all the No. 8 Irish needed.

That's because the Fighting Irish defense held the Panthers without a touchdown Saturday despite giving up a season-high 402 yards total offense. The defense sacked Pittsburgh quarterback Rod Rutherford eight times and forced three turnovers, including one midway through the fourth quarter that led to a 12-yard touchdown drive to secure the 14-6 victory by the Irish.

Irish Coach Tyrone Willingham said despite the lopsided statistics for the Panthers (5-2) he did not think the Irish (6-0) were outplayed.

"I think the true quality of being outplayed is winning the game, and I think that happened today," said Willingham, who earned his 50th career victory . "Our guys responded in the manner that a good team has to respond."

Rutherford said the key was clutch plays.

"We found a way to lose and they found a way to win," he said.

The Irish got more than half their offense on their first drive of the second quarter, an 80-yard drive capped by Carlyle Holiday's 11-yard touchdown pass to Arnaz Battle.

The Fighting Irish produced only one more touchdown -- in the fourth quarter, when Ryan Grant scored on a one-yard run after the Irish defense forced a turnover at the Pittsburgh 12.

It was the eighth time the Irish had scored a touchdown that was set up by their defense.

"The bottom line is what they have been living on is turnovers, and that was the difference in the game," Pittsburgh Coach Walt Harris said. "Turnovers were devastating."

The Panthers, ranked eighth in the nation in defense, limited Notre Dame to a season-low 185 yards. The Irish had only 40 yards rushing in 32 carries and 10 first downs.

Notre Dame's only drive longer than 36 yards was the second-quarter possession engineered by Holiday.

The loss was only the second in 13 games for the Panthers, who fell short of posting their best start since Dan Marino was a senior in 1982.

Harris said he doesn't take much solace in the fact the Panthers played so well. "There's no moral victories. We lost," he said.

The 20 points scored are the fewest scored at Notre Dame Stadium since Pittsburgh defeated the Irish, 10-9, in 1986 in Lou Holtz's first year as coach.

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