Nov. 13, 2004
By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Tyler Palko became the first quarterback to throw five touchdown passes against Notre Dame, four in the first half alone, and Josh Cummings kicked a 32-yard field goal with 1 second left to give the Panthers a 41-38 victory over the 24th-ranked Irish on Saturday.
The Irish tied the game with a 45-yard field goal by D.J. Fitzpatrick with 1:11 left, but couldn’t stop the Panthers.
On Pitt’s next play from scrimmage, Palko threw to Erik Gill for what appeared to be a short gain. But Irish linebacker Mike Goolsby tried to strip the ball and Gill broke free for a 36-yard gain. Palko completed two more passes to Gill on the drive to help set up the winning field goal.
The Panthers (6-3), who became bowl eligible with the victory, won at Notre Dame Stadium for the first time since 1986, ending an 0-6 streak. It was just Pitt’s second win in its last 13 games against the Irish. The 41 points were the most ever by the Panthers against Notre Dame.
The Irish (6-4) lost three games at home for a second consecutive season, only the second time that’s happened. The Irish have lost three home games in a season only eight times.
Palko was 26-of-42 for 334 yards, with no interceptions. Eleven previous quarterbacks had passed for four TD passes against the Irish, most recently Purdue’s Kyle Orton earlier this season.
After throwing four TD passes in the first half, Palko didn’t throw another until he found Erik Gill in the back of the end zone with 2:24 left. Gill finished with 89 yards on six carries and Greg Lee had five catches for 95 yards.
The Irish secondary struggled throughout the game, repeatedly giving up big plays and making mistakes that kept Pitt drives alive. On Pitt’s final TD drive, the Irish secondary was called for two pass interference calls – including one that wiped out an interception.
Brady Quinn passed for three touchdowns for Notre Dame, including a 36-yard pass to Matt Shelton midway through the fourth quarter. Quinn and Shelton also connected on a pair of 46-yard catches to set up two first-half scores.
Quinn was 16-of-26 for 259 yards, with two interceptions. Shelton had three catches for a career-high 128 yards receiving.
The Irish tied the score at 28 early in the third quarter on a 19-yard pass from Quinn to Rashon Powers-Neal. Carlyle Holiday set up the touchdown with a 68-yard punt return to the 19-yard line.
The Panthers scored on four of their six first-half possessions. Palko threw touchdown passes of 1 and 20 yards to Steve Buches, and 3-yard TD passes to Derek Kinder and Greg Lee.
The Irish defense, which entered the game giving up an average of 226 yards a game passing, gave up 214 yards passing in the first half alone as Pitt receivers repeatedly leaped over smaller Irish defenders to make big catches.