NCF Nation: South Bend 0810

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
 
 AP Photo/Michael Conroy
 Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is worried that his team will have a difficult time bouncing back from a disheartening loss to Pittsburgh.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Charlie Weis is worried about the psyche of his team.

After Pittsburgh overcame a 17-3 halftime deficit to beat the Irish 36-33 in four overtimes, Weis said he's wondering how his team will bounce back.

"I think the next 24 to 48 hours, you know, it's a trying time when you come off a disheartening loss," Weis said. "You got to bounce right back. Get treatment tomorrow, and Monday morning come in and watch the tape, move on to Boston College. I think more than closing the game, I'm just worried about getting their psyche right for this week."

Weis' concern is understandable. This is the second game Notre Dame has lost late after giving up a double-digit lead. The Irish led North Carolina 17-6 before the Tar Heels marched back to win 29-24 in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Tar Heels outscored Notre Dame 20-7 in the second half. On Saturday, Pittsburgh outscored the Irish 21-7 in the second half before hitting four consecutive field goals in overtime.

Weis made similar comments after the Irish loss to North Carolina, but his team had a bye the following week. He even said in his press conference after the game that he was happy his team didn't have to play the following week because he thought it might be too difficult a loss to overcome in such a short amount of time.

Now, the Irish have to prepare to play a 5-3 Boston College team on the road. Notre Dame is 1-2 on the road this season.

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Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
 
  AP Photo/Michael Conroy
 Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy ran for 169 yards and a touchdown Saturday, marking his fifth consecutive games with at least 140 yards rushing.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- LeSean McCoy had heard tales about Notre Dame growing the grass long for home games against Pittsburgh legend Tony Dorsett in the 1970s in an attempt to slow him down.

There was teasing earlier this week that the Irish groundskeepers would do the same for McCoy.

"I wouldn't cut the grass for Mr. Dorsett, either, but I think they'll cut it for me,'' McCoy told Pittsburgh media. "I'm not that good."

McCoy cut down Irish defenders Saturday, rushing for 169 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. He accounted for almost half of the Panthers total offense as he notched his fifth consecutive game with at least 140 rushing yards.

The effort gave McCoy 1,004 rushing yards for the season, making him the third player in Pitt history to reach 1,000 yards in two different seasons. The others were Dorsett, who had four 1,000-yard seasons, and Curvin Richards, who had two.

"I kind of had a slow start in the beginning," McCoy said. "I was trying to find things instead of just hitting it. That's kind of the problem I had at the beginning of the year. I just relaxed. I couldn't let all this hype and Notre Dame get to me. I just kind of settled down."

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said his team was able to bottle up McCoy in the first half with 51 yards on 10 carries. But a couple big runs early in the second half seemed to ignite the Panthers. Once McCoy got the offense moving, it seemed like the passing game, which struggled in the first half, followed suit. McCoy had 23 yards receiving, including a couple big first down plays off screen passes.

"That just the type of player he is," Pitt quarterback Pat Bostick said of McCoy taking charge of the game. "Twenty-five wants the ball in big situations and we do everything we can to get it to him... Big-time players make big-time plays in big games and he did that today. It was huge for us. He's a guy we look to. He's our leader offense and he did a great job."

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
 
 AP Photo/Michael Conroy
 Coach Dave Wannstedt and Pittsburgh top Notre Dame 36-33 in four overtimes. "Legends are made in games like this, big games, national TV games against great traditional teams," Wannstedt said.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- To Pittsburgh players, the mystique of winning in four overtimes at Notre Dame Stadium was just as big as the way they did it.

The Panthers (6-2) stormed back from a 17-3 halftime deficit, answered two more Notre Dame touchdown leads in the fourth quarter, and kicked the winning field goal in the fourth overtime to beat Notre Dame 36-33.

It was as much a storybook ending as many of the tales Panthers players had read or been told regarding the storied history of Notre Dame. Now they are a part of that storied history, too.

"Legends are made in games like this, big games, national TV games against great traditional teams," Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said. "The great thing about this win, the entire team will be recognized and remembered for this for the next 25 years, you know, because of overtime and everything. That's the neat thing when it's not just one individual, but when the entire team can share in it."

But beyond the hurdle of beating one of college football's traditional powers, the Panthers proved to themselves they are resilient. After falling behind 17-3 in a hostile environment, the Panthers could have folded. The slow start seemed like a continuation of last week's tough 54-34 loss to Rutgers.

An interception by quarterback Pat Bostick, who was playing in relief of starter Bill Stull, led to a late touchdown by the Irish and seemed to take the wind out of Pittsburgh's sails. It couldn't get its passing game going, its running game was predictable and the defense had trouble figuring out what Notre Dame was going to do next.

By all accounts the game looked like it was well on its way to a blowout.

But Wannstedt and several players said there was no panic at halftime. It was quiet, introspective, a business-like atmosphere.

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Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame kicker Brandon Walker went from hero to goat in about five minutes.

After making a 48-yard field goal to send Saturday's game against Pitt into a fourth overtime, Walker missed a 38-yarder, which ultimately cost the Irish the game, 36-33.

Pitt took over at the 25-yard-line and put the ball in the hands of their best player, running back LeSean McCoy, who got the Panthers within field goal range. Panthers kicker Conor Lee, who made a school record five field goals, won the game with a 22-yard field goal.

Pitt had stormed back from a 17-3 halftime deficit and staved off two fourth quarter lead changes to gain bowl eligibility for just the second time since 2004. The Panthers are 6-2.

This is the first home loss for the Irish this season, but the third loss against a quality opponent. If Stanford holds on to beat Washington State it will be the only team with a winning record the Irish have beaten this season.

I'm going down to the interview room for quotes. I'll be back on later.

Notre Dame-Pitt: Still going

November, 1, 2008
11/01/08
6:35
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- I didn't leave you, we're still playing.

Both teams have settled for field goals through the first two overtimes for a 30-30 score. This is the overtime where you have to go for two points after a touchdown.

If I had to guess, I'd say Pitt flinches first.

I'll be back when it's over.

Notre Dame-Pitt: Let's play OT

November, 1, 2008
11/01/08
6:20
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- We're going to overtime.

Notre Dame was up 17-3 at halftime, but Pittsburgh stormed back from a 17-3 deficit to tie the game at 17.

Clausen put the Irish ahead 24-17 with 5:38 remaining, but the Panthers answered with just over 2 minutes remaining.

In the first half, Pitt was dominated in nearly every facet of the game, and the Panthers weren't able to do anything in the air. In the second half, Pat Bostick was a different quarterback. After he threw an early interception, he commanded the offense and led the Panthers to three touchdowns, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Baldwin to tie the game at 24.

Notre Dame has been streaky on offense and hasn't been able to stop Pitt on defense. Pitt has stopped itself on two drives with interceptions. Bostick's second interception of the half, third of the game, came in the final seconds as he attempted to get the Panthers into field goal position. Pitt had two plays on the drive to win the game and Bostick threw a near interception and then the eventual interception to David Brunton. Don't know why they didn't ultilize LeSDean McCoy, one of the top rushers in the country. I'm pretty sure he's still on the team.

Heading into overtime, I'd give the advantage to Pittsburgh in terms of momentum, but if the Panthers continue to throw the ball when they should run, they might as well had the game to the Irish. The Notre Dame offensive line has gotten worse as the game has progressed. It looks tired. It will be interesting to see how it holds up in extra time.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Whatever momentum Notre Dame had going into halftime didn't come back out onto the field with the Irish in the second half.

Amazingly, Pitt has been the better team in the second half. The passing game is better -- though Pat Bostick threw another interception by overthrowing a receiver -- and it's opened up the running game for LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling.

Bostic was 7-of-9 for 70 yards in the third quarter and completed last five heading into the fourth. This after completing just 2-of-6 passes in the first half.

Sans interceptions, this is eerily reminiscent of the North Carolina game. The Pitt defense is starting to get good pressure on Clausen and is getting in the backfield to stop the Irish running game, which was so crucial in the first half. Clausen was hit pretty hard in the third quarter and walked gingerly off the field.

Not sure what to think here. Pitt has the ball at the Irish 39 to start the fourth quarter. If Pitt scores early, the Irish could be in serious jeopardy.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Perhaps Bill Stull was the glue that held Pitt together.

In his absence against Notre Dame, Pitt has looked awful. It's a one-dimensional offense, led by running back LeSean McCoy, and little else. The Panthers have tried two quarterbacks -- Pat Bostick and Kevan Smith -- and neither has been able to generate a consistent passing attack.

Most passes have been rocketed to their targets causing them to bounce off pads, and the one time Bostick tried to float the ball to his receiver, he overshot it for an interception that ultimately resulted in a touchdown to end the half.

Ugly doesn't even begin to describe the struggles of Pitt.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, has been as consistent as it's been at home all season. The offense has been balanced in both the run and pass, and the defense has held the Pitt offense in check, though that hasn't taken much effort.

The one encouraging thing for Pitt is that running back LeSean McCoy started to show flashes of the No. 11 running back in the country. And though Notre Dame's rushing defense has struggled at times this year, the Pitt offense hasn't shown any passing threat, which allows the Irish to stack the box in defense of the run.

Now that the Irish are up against a quality team, it will be interesting to see if they can push this game into a blowout. The Irish faced a similar task against North Carolina a few weeks ago, and made a ton of mistakes that led to a loss. I can't see that happening here unless Pitt recruits a quarterback out of the stands or pulls the redshirt off some stud buried on the depth chart.

This is Notre Dame's game to lose, but it hasn't exactly been dominant in the second half this season. It's only outscoring teams 82-67.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- I said this game would be all about LeSean McCoy and so far he hasn't shown up.

Either has Pitt for that matter.

The Panthers have six yards of total offense. No really, six. Nine plays for six yards. The Irish defense has done a great job of bottling up the running game and the Panthers' quarterbacks -- Pat Bostick and Kevan Smith have played -- can't throw the ball to save their lives. It's been an ugly show to watch if you're a Pitt fan.

If you're a Notre Dame fan, you have to be encouraged by everything but the punt game. A blocked punt is the reason this game is tied at 3. Otherwise, the offense has done well, especially rushing. Armando Allen has had some good early runs, which has kept the Pitt defense honest. It's also opened some lanes up for quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who finished the first quarter with 75 yards.

The Irish were able to move the ball with the run during the first drive, but got away from it as the quarter wore on. The Irish should get back to that until Pitt proves it can stop it.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Sophomore backup quarterback Pat Bostick will start against Notre Dame.

Bostick will play in place of starter Bill Stull, who suffered head and neck injuries against Rutgers last week. Stull had to be carted off the field and was held overnight at a local hospital. He practiced sparingly this week.

Stull did warm up in full pads.

Bostick has completed 6 of 11 passes this season for 69 yards. He has no touchdowns and an interception. He did, however, start the final eight games of last season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It's finally football weather.

Today's game between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh is the first game I've been to this season where the weather is overcast, gloomy and a little chilly. No rain in the forecast, so it shouldn't affect the game plan of either team, but there will be the little task of staying warm.

This game will be pivotal for both teams since the winner will have six wins and bowl eligibility. Notre Dame hasn't been bowl eligible since 2006 and Pitt hasn't played in a bowl since 2004.

This game will come down to the play of the Irish defense and Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen. As long as Clausen doesn't make mistakes, the Irish should be fine. But once he starts fumbling or throwing interceptions, things could go downhill quickly. In the Irish's two losses this season, Clausen threw four picks and had two fumbles.

Pitt is going to rely on its defense to force turnovers, especially since the offense will be fairly one-dimensional. Pitt starting quarterback Bill Stull will be a game-time decision. He is recovering from a head injury he suffered last weekend against Rutgers.

Pitt comes into this game licking its wounds after a 54-34 beating at the hands of Rutgers. Although Stull might not play, he wasn't going to be the focal point of the Pitt offense. Running back LeSean McCoy will carry the offense against an Irish defense that has struggled against the run at times.

McCoy is the 11th-best rusher in the country, averaging 119 yards per game, and he has 14 touchdowns already this year.

Notre Dame is allowing 120.6 yards a game on the ground this year, but Michigan State's Javon Ringer rushed for 201 yards on the Irish, Stanford rushed for 161, and the most surprising was that North Carolina, a team that hadn't been able to get its running game going all season, put up 121 yards rushing and almost all of it came in a come-from-behind effort in the second half.

Whether Stull plays or not, watch for the Irish defense to stack the box to stop the run. There isn't a great throwing threat with either Stull or Bostick, but I wouldn't rule out screens or swing passes out of the backfield to beat the pressure.

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