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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football VS Pitt, 2005

The Weis Era Begins

Notre Dame v Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 3: Running back Darius Walker #3 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish eludes linebacker H.B. Blades #51 of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on September 3, 2005 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Notre Dame defeated Pittsburgh 42-21.
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

With no more regular football games this year, this week I’m going to throwback to one of your suggestions: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football VS Pitt Panthers, 2005.

Notre Dame and Pitt have played each other a total of 72 times with Notre Dame winning 50 times, Pitt winning 21 times, and one tie game. Notre Dame’s all-time win record is 947-338-42 (.729), and Pitt’s all-time win record is 761-560-42 (.574). Notre Dame has had 11 National Championships, and Pitt has had 9 National Championships. Notre Dame’s bowl record is 19-20-0 (.487), and Pitt’s bowl record is 15-22-0 (.405). Notre Dame has seven Heisman Trophy winners to Pitt’s one. And Notre Dame has spent 98 weeks at AP No. 1, to Pitt’s 21 weeks at AP No. 1.

This week I’m going to throw back to the 2005 match-up between the two teams, and the below excerpt is from the 2005 Football Review, in Vol 147 of the Scholastic Magazine.

The Weis Era Begins

Written by Michael Kim

In his last visit to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Penn., on Jan. 23, 2005, Charlie Weis, then-offensive coordinator of the Patriots, masterfully orchestrated a potent New England offense to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship, 41-27. And while the pressure of a potential Super Bowl berth was not hanging in the balance on Weis’ next visit to Heinz Field eight months later on Sept. 3, 2005, he faced the weight of debuting as Notre Dame’s 28th head coach against the then-No. 23 Pittsburgh Panthers.

Many Irish fans were optimistic about Weis’ hire, but at the outset of the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh game, the Weis era did not look so promising. Only four minutes into the first quarter, Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko connected with wide receiver Greg Lee to give the Panthers an early 7 -0 lead.

Disgusted with the way his defense was playing, Weis went over to defensive coordinator Rick Minter and said angrily, “[They] better start playing better or I will put in the second string.” His stern message resonated among the Notre Dame bench. The Irish responded to Weis’ threat by scoring on their own opening drive, with running back Darius Walker taking a screen pass from quarterback Brady Quinn 51 yards to the end zone. It was the longest reception of Walker’s young career.

While the Panthers closed out the first quarter with a field goal, putting them ahead of the Irish by three, the second quarter saw a Notre Dame offensive outburst with the Irish scoring 28 unanswered points. Walker led the offensive barrage with a 2-yard touchdown run, followed by a spectacular, acrobatic, 19-yard catch by wide receiver Jeff Samardzija, the first of his career. Running back Rashon Powers-Neal also added two powerful touchdown runs.

Pittsburgh and Notre Dame fans were stunned — the former by their home team being pummeled after such high expectations and the latter by seeing the beginnings of a long-awaited offensive-renaissance. Weis recalled at halftime that his “players started to realize they’re better than they thought they were,” and the scoreboard certainly proved it, with Notre Dame dominating 35-13 at the half. The Irish tallied 319 total offensive yards in the first half, enough to surpass the total of five full games from the 2004 season.

In the third quarter Notre Dame continued its newfound mastery of ball-possession offense — reminiscent of Weis’ former Patriots teams — with a 20-play drive that milked seven minutes off the clock. Powers-Neal capped off the marathon drive with his third touchdown run of the night. In the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh added a touchdown with a two-point conversion, but this did little to change the game. Notre Dame won impressively with a final score of 42-21. Quinn, leading the new Weis-installed offense for the first time, went 18-27 for 227 yards with two touchdown throws and one interception. Walker finished with 20 rushes for 100 yards.

Although the victory was a tremendous success for Notre Dame, some growing pains were evident throughout the game. The Irish committed 10 penalties for a loss of 94 yards, and at one point in the game, Samardzija forgot his holding duties for an extra point, forcing the Irish to burn a timeout and infuriating Weis. Defensive end Ronald Talley made a foolish late hit on one of the Pittsburgh players, and Weis gave Talley a mouthful of unpleasant words on national television. Even Weis had some trouble adjusting to being the head coach, especially with the headphones that allowed him to speak to his assistants in the coaches’ booth. “I’m hammering someone on offense, and they’ll say ‘You’re [talking] to the defense, coach.’’’

I hope the holiday season is treating you well! Where do you want to see Notre Dame go bowling? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!

Cheers & GO IRISH!