Saturday, October 11, 2003

Panthers wary of 1-3 Irish


Mark reflects tough schedule, not weak team, Harris says

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH - Walt Harris, Pittsburgh's coach, sometimes jokes with reporters about what they write. This week, he also wouldn't mind doing some editing for them.

Harris wishes he could eliminate any reference to Notre Dame's 1-3 record, saying it doesn't reflect the skill level of the team the No. 15 Panthers (3-1) play tonight.

Whereas Pitt has beaten two Mid-American Conference teams and a Texas A&M team that lost by 31 points to Texas Tech last week, Notre Dame is playing its fifth consecutive ranked opponent. The Irish defeated No. 12 Washington State and lost to No. 18 Purdue, No. 20 Michigan and No. 21 Michigan State.

That's why Harris stressed to his players in practice that, despite the Fighting Irish's record, this is a significant upgrade in opposition.

"Notre Dame has played some excellent football teams ... I think we are going to be playing a much different football team than those first four teams we faced," Harris said. "This is a more challenging team than people think."

So far, Notre Dame's biggest challenge has been regaining the magic touch for pulling out tight victories it had while starting 8-0 last season.

The Irish since have lost six of nine, scoring more than 16 points only once in their last six games. The offense's struggles finally prompted coach Tyrone Willingham to bench quarterback Carlyle Holiday and replace him with freshman Brady Quinn before a 23-10 loss to Purdue Sept. 27.

Quinn passed for 297 yards and a touchdown but also threw four interceptions and didn't get much help from his running game. No Irish runner has gained more than 42 yards in the last three games on a team that averages only 91 yards rushing.

"We've got to be committed to the run, we have to be patient with the run, and it's very difficult to be patient because the only thing that makes you really patient is success at it," Willingham said.

Running back Julius Jones said, "We feel like we're close every week, but that doesn't mean anything unless you go out and do it."

So far, most of the Irish's games have fallen into a pattern: they get behind early, then struggle to catch up because they can't move the ball consistently. There's no breather in their schedule, either; No. 9 Southern California, Boston College and No. 5 Florida State follow Pitt.

Another potential problem: The Irish have yet to score a touchdown in the first quarter - a trend that, if it continues, could make it difficult to generate much momentum in their first visit to Heinz Field. The stadium has been sold out for weeks, forcing Pitt to put standing-room only tickets on sale.




PREP SPORTS
Elder 28, St. Xavier 7
Princeton 14, Lakota East 7
Conner 29, Dixie Heights 16
Colerain 44, Hamilton 24
Wyoming 40, Deer Park 13
Turpin 54, Goshen 13
Reading 38, Indian Hill 32 (3OT)
Winton Woods 16, Loveland 15
Roundup of Friday's other Ohio games
Roundup of Friday's other Kentucky games
Scores, how poll teams fared
Bacon's Zeller trails by 7 at state
CovCath finishes third in state
Friday's results
Today's schedule

REDS / BASEBALL PLAYOFFS
Allen completes interviews
NLCS: Cubs 5, Marlins 4 (11)
Pedro vs. The Rocket
Damon back in Red Sox lineup today
Boston businessman to purchase Dodgers

BENGALS / NFL
Bengals' Graham landed on his feet
Injured girl's family sues league

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Guidugli, UC fighting for balance
Bucks braced for big battle
Clarett sues Ohio State, seeks $2.5M in damages
MU offense aims for 40-plus points vs. lowly Buffalo
Soldier trades war nightmares for college football dream
Panthers wary of 1-3 Irish
Michigan's rally stuns Gophers
Major games, major stakes

GOLF
Verplank, Flesch tied for lead at 23-under par

NBA
Bryant case strategy shifts

SOCCER
Americans want a winning ending

MOTOR SPORTS
Kenseth's recent struggles have field gaining ground

ON THE AIR
This weekend's sports on TV, radio