Just the Facts

A look at the Notre Dame/Pittsburgh series…by the numbers.

Regular season Game 6 of 12 brings the formerly No. 15-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers to South Bend for a matchup with the 2-3 Irish. Pittsburgh began the year ranked No. 15 in both the Associated Press and USA Today/Coach's Poll, but lost its season opener at Utah, 27-24, then was handled by the resurgent Miami Hurricanes, 31-3 at Heinz Field.

At 4-0, Utah has moved up to No. 10 in both polls while the Hurricanes now occupy the 13th and 14th ranking, respectively. The Irish face Utah in mid-November this season.

Pittsburgh has defeated FCS opponent New Hampshire and Sun Belt foe Florida International for a 2-2 mark entering Saturday's contest.

1 – Win by the Notre Dame program over current Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt. Now in his sixth season at the helm, Wannstedt lost to new head coach Charlie Weis in the 2005 season opener – the collegiate head coaching debut for both. Weis' Irish ran roughshod over Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, winning 42-21 as 4-point underdogs to the then-No. 23 Panthers. Wannstedt since defeated Weis and the Irish in 2008 and 2009.

2 – Rushing touchdowns for Pittsburgh sophomore running back Dion Lewis this season. Lewis was the nation's best freshman and among the country's top players last season, running for 1,799 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns en route to Big East Player of the Year honors. Lewis missed Pittsburgh's fourth game, a 44-17 win over Florida International last week, with a shoulder injury. In his stead, classmate Ray Graham has totaled a team-high 492 yards and five touchdowns on just 52 carries.

3 – Plays in excess of 50 yards produced by the Panthers trio of Dion Lewis, Ray Graham and Jonathan Baldwin vs. the Irish last season. Baldwin kicked off the Panthers first scoring drive of the second half with a leaping 51-yard sideline grab over the top of Irish CB Darrin Walls (the Irish D held the Panthers to a field goal). Later Ray Graham ran over, around and through the Irish defense for a 52-yard zig-zag carry down to the Notre Dame 2-yard line. Graham scored on the following snap.

In the fourth quarter, Lewis turned one vicious cut at the second level into a 50-yard sprint and score to stake the Panthers to a 27-93 lead. Notre Dame cut the margin to 27-22 before succumbing on its final drive.

4 – Wins by both the Irish and the Panthers over the series' last eight contests dating back to 1999, a 37-27 win by Pittsburgh to close Pitt Stadium after 74 years. Five of the eight matchups were decided by 7 points or fewer with the Panthers earning victory in three of the five including the last two seasons.

5 – Previous matchups between the programs over the last 25 years in which both entered the contest unranked. The Irish have won two such contests (1997 and 2001) while the Panthers prevailed in 1986, 1999 and 2008. Saturday will mark the sixth meeting between unranked Pittsburgh and Notre Dame teams since 1962 – either both or one of the two programs were ranked in 18 consecutive meetings between 1963 and the aforementioned '86 matchup. The Irish defeated the Panthers in 11 consecutive matchups during that span with the upstart and unranked Panthers finally ending Notre Dame's dominance in a 1975 upset over the No. 9 Irish.

6 – Wins by the Irish in the 17 contests they've played decided by 7 points or fewer since the start of the 2008 season. Two of those 11 close losses occurred at the hands of the Panthers: a 2008, 36-33 4OT loss in South Bend and last season's 27-22 defeat in Heinz field. Removing the two wins over Notre Dame, the Panthers are 5-5 in games decided by 7 points or fewer over that same span.

7 – Receptions for Panthers wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin vs. the Irish over the last two seasons. Each has incurred significant damage: a 21-yard gain on 2nd and 10 and a 10-yard, game-tying touchdown to send the 2008 contest into its first of four overtimes. Last season, Baldwin's 5 receptions totaled 142 yards: a 15-yard reception on 3rd and 4 early in the contest to set up the game's first field goal; a 21-yard grab on 3rd and 10 followed immediately by a diving 36-yard touchdown catch to give the Panthers a 10-3 second quarter lead; a 51-yard catch to set up a field goal in the game's third quarter for a 13-3 edge; and a 19-yard grab on 2nd and 10 in the game's final period.

8 – Consecutive wins by the Irish over the Panthers from 1988-1997. Seven of those victories occurred under the guidance of Lou Holtz. Holtz lost his first two games vs. Pittsburgh in '86 and '87, but proceeded to outscore seven different Panthers teams by a combined total of 304-73 from 1988 through 1996, culminating with a 60-6 pounding of Pittsburgh in South Bend.

9 – Touchdowns scored by the Irish in a 60-6 pasting of the Panthers during the team's 1996 matchup in South Bend. Seven different Irish players scored that day: Allen Rossum (two punt return touchdowns) and Robert Farmer (two touchdown runs) repeated the feat. Rossum's feat has been accomplished only three times in program history and just twice (Tim Brown recorded the other two PR TD game vs. MSU in ‘87) in the last 85 seasons. Tailback Autry Denson added a third punt return for a score to set a Notre Dame single-game record on the afternoon.

10 – Matchups between the teams in which one of the two was ranked either 1-2-or 3 in the A.P. Poll. The last occurrence was 1990 when the top-ranked Irish held off an unranked Pittsburgh squad 31-22. Notre Dame upset No. 1 Pittsburgh on its home turf in 1982, 31-16. Current Irish radio broadcaster Allen Pinkett ran for a 76-yard touchdown in that upset win over the Dan Marino-led Panthers.

Since 1990, the highest ranking the Irish have achieved during a matchup with the Panthers was No. 4 in 1993 and most recently, No. 8 in 2002 (as well as No. 7 in 1991). Pittsburgh was ranked No. 8 heading into last season's mid-November win over the Irish, their highest such ranking entering the matchup since 1989 when Paul Hackett's squad fell to Lou Holtz and the No. 1 ranked Irish, 45-7 in South Bend.

11 – Career-high tackle total posted by Panthers middle linebacker Max Gruder in last year's matchup between the teams at Heinz Field. Gruder led the Panthers with 91 tackles last season from his weakside linebacker position. He began the 2010 season on the strongside of the Panthers 4-3 defense, but has since moved to the middle to replace the injured Dan Mason who was lost for the season on September 23 due to injury.

12 – Rushes in excess of 10 yards allowed by the Irish defense over the last two matchups with the Panthers. Current Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy accounted for 7 of those carries in the teams' 2008 matchup while returning Panthers sophomores Dion Lewis (4) and Ray Graham (1) accounted for the remainder last season. Notre Dame's rush defense has allowed just one carry in excess of 10 yards over the last two contests.

Bonus Stat: 19 – Meetings between the teams in which Notre Dame scored 40 or more points vs. the Panthers. Pittsburgh has topped the 40-point plateau just once – a 41-39 comeback win over Tyrone Willingham's Irish on Senior Day 2004 in South Bend.

On the Horizon

Irish players that could reasonably accomplish statistical milestones Saturday vs. the Panthers:

Armando Allen: Needs 15 receiving yards to supplant Darius Walker (2004-06) for 4th place on the position's receiving yardage list. Allen could finish as high as No. 2 on the position's career list, though first place is likely out of reach:

  1. Joseph Heap 1137 (1951-54)
  2. Bob Gladieux 947 (1966-68)
  3. Jim Morse 902 (1954-56)
  4. Darius Walker 816 (2004-06)
  5. Armando Allen Jr. 802 (2007-)

Notably, Allen needs just four yards – rushing, receiving or in the return game – to move past Rocket Ismail (1988-1990) into 5th place on the program's all-purpose yardage list.

Darrin Walls: Recorded the 19th pass break-up of his career last week vs. Boston College to move into 7th on the program's career list. Walls needs two pass break-ups to move ahead of Ralph Stepaniak (1969-71) and the legendary Todd Lyght (1987-1990) into fifth-place. With one pass breakup each week through the remainder of the season, Walls would overtake Shane Walton (1999-2002) for third-place in program history.

David Ruffer: Needs two consecutive field goals to break teammate's Nick Tausch for the program's record with 14 consecutive successful attempts. Tausch broke Mike Johnston's 27-year old mark last season as a true freshman. The walk-on transfer Ruffer took over in an emergency role for Tausch last season vs. Pittsburgh in Heinz Field and held down the role through the end of the 2009 season, connecting on each of his five attempts.

Ruffer has made each of his eight attempts to begin the 2010 season.

Kyle Rudolph: Needs 100 receiving yards to pass current Seattle Seahawks tight end John Carlson (2004-2007) for third-place on the programs career yardage list at the position.

With 8 receptions, Rudolph would pass current Miami Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano (2003-05) for third on the program's career list among tight ends at 93. Rudolph has just 2 catches over the last two contests after securing 21 receptions in the season's first three outings.

Michael Floyd: Needs two touchdowns to pass Tom Gatewood (1969-71) for 5th place on the program's career list. Gatewood caught 19 TD over a three-year span. Floyd has just two touchdowns this season, scoring both at Michigan State in Week Three.

With 8 receptions, Floyd will tie program legend Ken McAfee (1974-77) for 9th on the program's all-time list. Floyd has caught 120 passes in 21 career games. Floyd passed former tight end Tony Hunter (1979-82) for 9th on the program's yardage list last Saturday in Chestnut Hill.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories