Monday, September 19, 2011
Irish can't forget last time vs. Todd Graham
By Matt Fortuna
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A day before being admitted into the ACC, Pittsburgh's football team held a 17-point fourth-quarter lead in a hostile Big Ten stadium before losing by four.
Todd Graham's departure forced Pitt to find its fourth head coach in a two-year span.
OK, so the Panthers' collapse in a 31-27 loss to Iowa didn't exactly replicate Notre Dame's 35-31 loss at Michigan a week earlier. And, to be fair, the loss Saturday was Pitt's first of the season, so it might not be scratching its head and playing with the same chip on its shoulder that the Fighting Irish did in the culmination of two frustrating weeks Saturday, a 31-13 win against Michigan State for victory No. 1.
Brian Kelly, for one, doesn't think Pitt will let its loss linger.
"They're a football team in a first year with coach [Todd] Graham," Kelly said during a conference call Sunday. "They're still learning, they're still learning about the coaching staff. I know where they are relative to that development. We'll be more concerned with what we do and how we do it then losing a tough game. I know we lost a couple tough games, too, and the first thing he'll probably do is talk about, 'Put that behind you, because you've got Notre Dame coming into town. Because if you let that linger you'll get beat by Notre Dame.'
"So I'm pretty sure what happened last week won't have much effect on what happens this week."
What the Irish should be more concerned about is not letting what happened last year against Graham happen again.
Last year's game against Tulsa, Graham's previous head-coaching stop, was supposed to provide ample opportunity for the Irish to bounce back from a tough loss to Navy and get back over .500.
Instead, the Golden Hurricanes knocked Dayne Crist out of the game, ending his season. They scored 10 unanswered points in the second half and picked off Tommy Rees in the end zone in the final minute, sealing a 28-27 win that was the program's first against a BCS-AQ team since 1996.
More troubling is how they did it.
They blocked an extra point and returned it 98 yards for two the other way.
They returned an interception 66 yards for a touchdown.
And, late in the third quarter, they returned a punt 59 yards for a score.
Notre Dame finally put two weeks of misery behind it with a win this past Saturday, and with a favorable schedule in the next three weeks, it can be tempting for the team to look ahead.
To prevent that, the Irish should look back at the last time they faced a Graham-coached team, and know that the more talented one they will face Saturday may carry an anger that is all-too-familiar.
Notre Dame knew the feeling just a short week ago.