Nov. 13, 1999
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By ALAN ROBINSON
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) – In the final game – and final upset – in Pitt Stadium’s 74-year history, it turned out the only significant damage was done to Notre Dame’s secondary.
John Turman threw two touchdown passes to Antonio Bryant and Kevan Barlow scored twice as Pitt upset favored Notre Dame 37-27 Saturday in the last game before the Panthers’ campus stadium is torn down.
Hundreds of fans in the overcapacity crowd of 60,190 brought down the goal posts after Notre Dame’s Jarious Jackson threw incomplete into the end zone on fourth down, and the officials waved off the final nine seconds.
“I told the team we could play above and beyond what we’ve played, and we did,” safety D.J. Dinkins said. “We wanted to go out with a bang and play like champions.”
Some fans ripped up small strips of the artificial turf, which already had been sold via an Internet auction, but dozens of security guards kept the stadium damage to a minimum. A half hour after the game ended, Pitt players streamed back onto the field, tossing helmets and arm pads into the air to celebrate.
“The kids have a lot of pride and wanted to send the stadium off in a proper manner,” Pitt coach Walt Harris said. “This team has not learned how to win this season. Today, we learned how to win.”
Turman, benched more than a month ago, threw for 231 yards, almost exclusively to Latef Grim and Bryant as the Panthers (5-5) positioned themselves for a possible bowl bid if they beat West Virginia on Nov. 27.
Bryant, a freshman, had four catches for 95 yards and Grim had four for 120 yards as Turman made nearly every one of his 10 completions count.
Notre Dame (5-5) wasn’t ranked, but had won eight in a row against Pittsburgh, the last six by a combined score of 280-77. The Irish, the most difficult team for Pitt to beat since the Panthers began playing in 1890, led the all-time series 40-16-1.
“I’m embarrassed for our football team,” said Irish coach Bob Davie, who began his coaching career as a Pitt graduate assistant in 1977. “I hate to talk and make too strong a statement, but I’m embarrassed. I told our team to call it what it was: We got whipped.”
Davie, whose team had won four straight before losing to Tennessee 38-14 last week, said, “It goes back to our ability to cover and get pressure. Our cornerbacks got tired and they couldn’t keep up with those receivers.”
Buoyed by the raucous crowd, the eighth largest in the hillside stadium’s history, the Panthers never trailed and took the lead for good at 20-17 on Nick Lotz’s 33-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ramon Walker recovered Tony Fisher’s fumble at the Irish 29. One play later, Turman found Bryant on a 28-yard scoring pass that made it 27-17 and caused one of the biggest roars in years in a stadium that only rarely has been filled since Pitt’s run of nationally ranked teams ended in the mid 1980s.
“It was a pressure-packed and emotionally charged game, and the fans were there from the start,” Harris said. “I just wish we didn’t have to tear down the stadium to get them to a game. I don’t know do what we can for an encore.”
Turman, who threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-17 loss to Penn State before losing his starting job to the injured David Priestley, gained more confidence during what Harris called Pitt’s best week of practice all season.
“I wasn’t nervous. I was relaxed,” Turman said. “I’ve been watching Notre Dame since I was a little kid, so it feels great to walk out of here with a victory.”
Notre Dame, which hadn’t lost to a Big East team since being upset by Boston College in 1994, came right back to score three plays later on a 27-yard pass from Jackson to David Givens. Givens had earlier connected with Bobby Brown on a 21-yard scoring pass after taking a reverse from Jackson, who was 22-of-37 for 317 yards. Brown made 12 catches for 208 yards.
But Lotz blunted some of the Irish’s momentum with a 44-yard field goal – the longest of his career – to put Pitt up 30-24 with 11:03 remaining. Then, with Notre Dame trying to drive for a go-ahead score, Walker put a big hit on Joey Getherall, causing the ball to fly 15 feet in the air to linebacker Scott McCurley for an interception.
Pitt then sealed its first victory over Notre Dame since 1987 as Barlow scored on a 2-yard run with 1:41 remaining.
Pitt, feeding off the momentum of one of its few home sellouts of the 1990s, scored on its first possession with Turman finding Bryant on a 9-yarder for the first of their two touchdown hookups. The week before, Turman couldn’t lead a touchdown drive in three quarters after replacing Priestley in a 33-3 loss to No. 19 Miami.
Lotz later added a 24-yard field goal, but Notre Dame, 3-0 in Pitt Stadium since 1987, tied it at 10-all at halftime on Jackson’s 5-yard scoring pass to Getherall and Jim Sanson’s 36-yard field goal.
Former Pitt stars such Tony Dorsett and Marshall Goldberg were among the more than 300 ex-players saluted at halftime. At least one player from every decade since the 1920s attended.
“Talk about pressure,” Harris said. “Our players had to step up to plate with all those players expecting you to send the stadium out on a right note.”
Pitt will play next season in Three Rivers Stadium, then shift to the new Steelers stadium in 2001. Pitt Stadium, one of biggest and best stadiums in the country when it opened in 1925, will be replaced by a new basketball arena and student housing.