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Nov. 16, 1996

Special Teams Spark Irish In 60-6 Win Over Pitt

By Tim Sherman

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — At Friday night’s pep rally at the Joyce Center, Lou Holtz eschewed his customary introduction of the starting offense and defense in favor of recognizing the special teams’ units.

He must have known something.

The next day, the Irish punt return team, propelled by the sheer speed of Allen Rossum, broke the game open with three punt return touchdowns in the second quarter. Notre Dame never looked back as it raced to a 60-6 victory over an overmatched Pittsburgh squad.

Rossum’s two returns of 55 and 83 yards set the tone in a quarter in which the Irish racked up a modern-day record with 40 points in the quarter.

“Once I see open field, I know I’m going to score,” Rossum said. “I guess I broke a record (most kick returns in a season). I just give credit to the group in front of me. They do a terrific job.”

While the returns stole the headlines, the Irish offense was just as efficient throughout the game. Dave Roberts’ unit racked up 565 yards in total offense, including 245 in the explosive second quarter.

“That second quarter was nice,” said Ron Powlus. “The returns were great and we just got it going. We kind of put out their fire with the punt returns.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Rossum got the 14th-ranked Irish (7-2) on the scoreboard with a 55-yard burst at the 12:42 mark. Picking the ball up at his ankles, the junior eluded two Pitt tacklers, cut right, and sped past Panther Curtis McGhee along the sidelines.

“I was surprised I caught it,” Rossum admitted. “I made one move and headed outside. I was blessed with some speed.”

A few moments later, the Irish found themselves in the end zone again on the strength of a 32-yard catch by Pete Chryplewicz and a 40-yard TD gallop by Jamie Spencer.

Then it was the Rossum and Autry Denson show again. With 5:30 remaining in the half, Rossum fielded a Nate Cochran punt at the 17 – 83 yards later the Irish led 26-0.

After a quick three-and-out, Denson took advantage of Rossum’s fatigue. The sophomore tailback handled Cochran’s punt on the right side, broke all the way to the left through a pile of Panthers, and raced 74 yards for the score.

“He (Rossum) gave me a chance to run one back,” Denson said. “I was confident from the first run that if I got a chance, I could break one.”

Denson’s classmate and fellow Florida transplant Bobby Brown got his shot at glory on Notre Dame’s next possession. Powlus hit a wide open Brown in the right flat and Brown dashed toward the end zone, only to step out of bounds at the 2. Tailback Randy Kinder took it in from there, making Notre Dame’s halftime lead 40-0.

“They were just a much superior team out there in every way,” Pitt coach Johnny Majors said. “They have great speed (on punt returns), and speed kills.”

With the commanding lead, Holtz had the opportunity to see some of his youngsters, notably sophomore Jarious Jackson.

Not really given a chance to shine, Jackson simply ran the offense with efficiency. Jackson (4-of-7, 58 yards) mixed in the options nicely and let freshman fullback Joey Goodspeed and senior tailback Robert Farmer do the lion’s share of the work.

Goodspeed opened the scoring in the second half with a 22-yard run after a screen pass, and Farmer rushed 17 times for 124 yards in the final half. Farmer, who finished with 140 yards on the ground to lead the Irish attack, scored his second touchdown of the game late in the third quarter to cap an impressive 18-play, 93-yard drive that chewed more than nine minutes off the clock.

“The offense is clicking, we’re tough to stop,” said sophomore right guard Tim Riddler. “We fired off the ball well today. The backs know what we’re going to do.”

And the offense knows what the defense is going to do – dominate.

Sure, the total yards accumulated by the Irish were impressive (565), but the defense fared just as well, limiting Pitt (3-7) to 244 yards and just a fourth-quarter touchdown.

“I’m very proud of the way our football team played today,” Holtz said. “We’re in a rhythm and we’re playing well right now.”

The Panthers can attest to that.


            1st   2nd   3rd   4th   Total              ---   ---   ---   ---   -----Pittsburgh     0     0     0     6      6Notre Dame     0    40    13     7     60

SCORING SUMMARYSecond QuarterND -- Allen Rossum 55 punt return (Jim Sanson kick), 2:18ND -- Jamie Spencer 40 run (PAT failed), 5:25ND -- Robert Farmer 1 run (two-point conversion failed), 8:29ND -- Allen Rossum 83 punt return (Jim Sanson kick), 9:30ND -- Autry Denson 74 punt return (Jim Sanson kick), 10:47ND -- Randy Kinder 2 run (Scott Palumbo kick), 13:29Third QuarterND -- Joey Goodspeed 22 pass from Jarious Jackson (Chris McCarthy kick), 2:43ND -- Robert Farmer 16 run (PAT failed), 13:32Fourth QuarterP -- Jake Hoffart 32 pass from Pete Gonzalez (two-point conversion failed), 0:07ND -- Kevin Carretta 2 run (Kevin Mc Donnell kick), 11:42 Pittsburgh Notre Dame First downs 16 28 Rushed-yards 39-101 55-332 Passing yards 143 233 Sacked-yards lost 5-47 0-0 Return yards 6 279 Passes 14-30-2 13-21-0 Punts 9-45.2 2-37.5 Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-2 Penalties-yards 4-20 4-25 Time of possession 27:01 32:59 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRushing Pittsburgh -- D. Schulters 13-45, Poteat 8-44, B.West 8-43, Dinkins 1-0, Gonzalez 2-minus 4, Lytle 7-minus 27.Notre Dame -- Farmer 22-140, Denson 12-104, Spencer 5-58,Carreta 3-9, Goodspeed 5-5, Kinder 2-4, Jackson 2-4, Powlus 1-3,Barry 1-3, Stephens 2-2.Passing Pittsburgh -- Lytle 12-20-1-97, Gonzalez2-7-0-46, Zimmerman 0-2-1-0, Dinkins 0-1-0-0.Notre Dame -- Powlus 8-13-0-171, Jackson 4-7-0-58, H Smith1-1-0-4.Receiving Pittsburgh -- Hoffart 6-76, Jones 3-24, Butler3-21, Mcmullen 2-22.Notre Dame -- Stephens 3-62, Chryplewicz 3-60, Brown 1-49,Goodspeed 1-22, Farmer 1-13, Carreta 1-10, Mosley 1-9, Berry1-4, Spencer 1-4.Attendance: 59,075