Sunday, October 12, 2003

Notre Dame 20, No. 15 Pittsburgh 14

Irish get back on track; RB Jones breaks out to pace Notre Dame past Panthers

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH - None of the great runners in Notre Dame's past - George Gipp, Paul Hornung, Ricky Watters, Jerome Bettis, Allen Pinkett - ever did what Julius Jones did against Pittsburgh.

Jones broke the school's single-game rushing record with 262 yards and scored twice, and the Fighting Irish, the nation's eighth-worst rushing team, surprised the No. 15 Panthers by switching to a power running game in their 20-14 upset victory Saturday night.

"It was just a great day for us," Jones said. "Things just opened up for us. I was fortunate enough to get a lot of carries, and the line did a great job."

The Irish (2-3) turned two Pitt turnovers into scores, again disrupted quarterback Rod Rutherford with their constant pressure, and revamped their offense during a bye week to beat Pitt (3-2) for the third straight season.

Only two weeks after throwing 62 times for 297 yards in a 23-10 loss to Purdue, Notre Dame nearly abandoned its passing game - freshman Brady Quinn completed only five passes for 33 yards - to repeatedly run at a Pitt defense that has allowed 1,480 yards in its last three games.

Afterward, the Panthers didn't know what hit them - or, for that matter, what the Irish hit them with.

"We had trouble physically getting it done," frustrated Pitt coach Walt Harris said. "We had trouble running the ball. We had trouble protecting the passer. They just had too much for us."

Pitt lineman Vince Crochunis said the Panthers never expected Notre Dame to run like it did.

"When we watched them on tape, they were struggling to get the running game going," Crochunis said. "We expected them to throw more. But when something's working as well as that did, why try anything else?"

Jones, a senior who was academically ineligible last season, had only 152 yards on 43 carries this season, only to enjoy the biggest game by any running back in the Irish's storied history.

Jones, who ran for 718 yards as a junior in 2001, broke the record of 255 yards set by Vagas Ferguson against Georgia Tech in 1978.

So much for the talk that Notre Dame, which has played five consecutive ranked opponents and has Southern Cal up next, was headed for a 1-7 start.

"I think the weakest part of our game has been the running," Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham said. "We wanted to see if we can improve and once we did that, we wanted to continue it."

Jones had 94 yards by halftime, including touchdown runs of 25 and 49 yards. He kept piling up the yards in the second half, even though the Irish's only second half scoring was D.J. Fitzpatrick's 34-yard field midway through the third quarter that made it 20-14.

Jones added a 61-yard run during an eight minutes-plus Notre Dame drive that consumed most of the fourth quarter and kept the ball from a Pitt offense desperate to prevent the Panthers' second upset loss in three games. They were beaten by Toledo 35-31 on Sept. 20.

Notre Dame71030-20

First Quarter

ND-Jones 25 run (Setta kick), 12:08

Pitt-Fitzgerald 23 pass from Rutherford (Abdul kick), :00

Second Quarter

Pitt-Fitzgerald 4 pass from Rutherford (Abdul kick), 13:05

ND-Jones 49 run (Setta kick), 8:54

ND-FG Fitzpatrick 19, 0:33

Third Quarter

ND-FG Fitzpatrick 34, 7:10


First downs149
Return Yards9676
Time of Possession36:4623:14


RUSHING-Notre Dame, Jones 24-262, Grant 27-84, Powers-Neal 1-7, M.Wilson 1-3, Quinn 3-(minus 16), Clark 0-12. Pittsburgh, Walker 10-37, Polite 2-4, team 1-0, Rutherford 14-(minus 32).

PASSING-Notre Dame, Quinn 5-17-1-33. Pittsburgh, Rutherford 12-30-0-167.

RECEIVING-Notre Dame, Fasano 2-15, Jenkins 1-19, McKnight 1-6, Jones 1-(minus 7). Pittsburgh, Fitzgerald 5-79, Brockenbrough 3-61, Polite 2-14.

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