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Tradition Tuesday: Pittsburgh

Oct 30, 2012, 12:38 PM EDT

Cierre Wood runs in the fourth quarter of Notre Dame's 2010 game against Pittsburgh. Photo by Matt Cashore.

After a rare game against Oklahoma in Norman, Notre Dame returns home on Saturday (3:30 pm ET on NBC) to take on a familiar foe – Pittsburgh. The Panthers are the Fighting Irish’s fifth-most common opponent, behind only Navy, Purdue, USC and Michigan State.

This weekend will mark the 68th meeting between the programs, with Notre Dame currently holding a commanding 46-20-1 lead, including 14 victories in the last 18 games. The programs have played 58 times in the last 70 years.

The series began in 1909 at Forbes Field, with the Irish taking the opener, 6-0. Two years later, the teams played to a scoreless tie, the lone draw in series history. After another Notre Dame victory in 1912, the young series took a hiatus until 1930, when the teams began an eight-year stretch of consecutive meetings.

The teams met again from 1943-54 and every year from 1956-78. Ara Parseghian holds the series longest winning streak, never losing to the Panthers during 11 seasons as head coach.

In 1999, Notre Dame visited the Steel City for the final game at Pitt Stadium. The following year, the Panthers played at Three Rivers Stadium, before moving to their current home, Heinz Field in 2001.

Four of the 10 largest victory margins in Notre Dame history have come at the Panthers’ expense, most recently a 60-6 crushing in 1996.

Notre Dame’s biggest win in the series, however, came in 1982, when an unranked Irish team went to Pittsburgh and came away with a 31-16 victory over Dan Marino and the #1 Panthers. Earlier this season, that game was featured as one of the first moments in the 125 project. Watch below, as Allen Pinkett recalls the memorable upset.

Notre Dame survived a scare against Pittsburgh on the way to its national championship in 1988. The Irish won 30-20, thanks in part to a couple of costly red zone fumbles by the Panthers.

The following year, Lou Holtz‘s top-ranked Notre Dame team faced #7 Pittsburgh in Notre Dame Stadium. This time, it was all Irish, as they rolled to a 45-7 victory.

In 2005, Notre Dame outscored Pittsburgh 28-3 in the second quarter on its way to a 42-21 rout. The game featured the first touchdown catch of Jeff Samardzija‘s career, a spectacular diving grab in the second quarter.

Last season, the Irish defeated Pittsburgh, 15-12. It certainly wasn’t one of the prettiest victories, but Jonas Gray did turn in a 79-yard touchdown. Check out Irish Connection #11 to relive the impressive run.

The Pittsburgh series doesn’t have the intensity of USC, Michigan, or even Michigan State, and it lacks the historical significance that Notre Dame shares with Navy. Still, the relationship between the Irish and Panthers dates back more than 100 years, and is certainly an important part of our storied football tradition.

  1. eaglecountytimes - Oct 30, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    ESPN? Commenators…Lou Holtz and Mark May this week before the Pitt game?

    Mark use to be one of the Redskins..”Hogs” from years ago.
    Before that, in College, Mayday played for Pitt.

    Should be fun to hear Mayday this week on ESPN – explain to Holtz – just WHY the Panthers are going to beat the Irish!

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