Tue, Sep 06, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Irish may be back in fight after big away victory over No. 23 Pittsburgh


As his Notre Dame players celebrated with their band and their fans at Heinz Field after Saturday night's 42-21 victory over host No. 23 Pittsburgh, Charlie Weis might have been expected to stop, gaze and savor his impressive debut as a college football head coach.

Instead, Weis said, his mind was already hundreds of miles away. He was thinking about next Saturday's game at Michigan, the second in succession on the road and the second against a team ranked in college football's top 25.

Notre Dame will also play the defending champion Southern California and the highly regarded Tennessee, both at home. Is such a difficult schedule an impediment to enjoying the moment and does it give Weis cause for trepidation?

Pressure cooker

"I'm not worried about the schedule," Weis said Sunday in a conference call from South Bend, Indiana.

"Football coaches are creatures of habit. They really don't enjoy wins and they are miserable in the losses. It's a tough game every week. You could lose to everyone on your schedule."

The Fighting Irish did not lose to the Panthers despite giving up a touchdown on Pitt's first possession, a 39-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Palko to Greg Lee.

"It comes down to a matter of confidence," Weis said of his players. "There were a lot of unknowns. You don't know how they're going to respond when something bad happens."

When the Irish got the ball, they responded well, scoring five touchdowns in the first half and another on the first drive of the third quarter.

Three of them were scored by fullback Rashon Powers-Neal, on runs of 2, 9 and 4 yards. And two were scored by running back Darius Walker -- the first on a 51-yard pass play, the second on a 2-yard run. Walker carried 20 times for 100 yards.

By dominating the line of scrimmage, particularly on offense, the Irish were able to control the tempo. Quarterback Brady Quinn completed 18 of 27 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. He was not sacked.

Dominant defense

Quinn's counterpart, Palko, was sacked five times by an Irish defense thought to be one of the team's weaknesses.

"We had pretty steady pressure on Palko," Weis said. Of his offensive line, he said: "They slugged it out real well. They played wanting to be the ones delivering the punches."

But Weis also found fault with his team, citing its 10 penalties for 94 yards and some sloppy substitutions on special teams.

Michigan, the next opponent, opened its season with a 33-17 victory over Northern Illinois.

Last season, Notre Dame beat the Wolverines, 28-20, at South Bend.

The Irish have won 3 of the last 5 meetings between the teams and are 4-5-1 in the last 10.

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