16th Ranked Panthers take on Notre Dame

Pitt (3-1) and Notre Dame (1-3) will do battle Saturday at Heinz Field in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN with the kickoff set for 6:00pm.<br><br> Notre Dame is starting 18-year old freshman Brady Quinn at QB and the Pitt crowd will have a big opportunity to rattle the young starter.

Quinn enters the game 39 of 86 for 426 yards passing and 2 touchdowns this season. He was considered to be one of the top 5 quarterbacks coming out of high school after his senior year. He possesses a strong arm and very quick release. Although he has replaced senior Carlyle Holiday at QB, don't be surprised if you see Holiday in the game running the option offense.

Quinn's top receiving target is sophomore Rhema McKnight, who has caught 18 passes for 180 yards and 2 TD's. Sophomore WR Maurice Stovall is a dangerous deep threat with his speed and 6-5, 221-pound frame.

Junior Ryan Grant and senior Julius Jones lead Notre Dame's two-headed rushing attack. Grant has rushed for 158 yards on 46 carries for a 3.4 yards per carry average. Jones has rushed for 152 yards and on 43 carries for a 3.5 yards per carry average. The Fighting Irish return 5 starters from last season on offense.

On defense, the Fighting Irish are led by senior Courtney Watson at linebacker and senior Vontez Duff at cornerback. Senior safety Glenn Earl is another standout player for the Irish and he had a big game against Pitt last season. The Panthers have not played against defensive players of their talent this season. Notre Dame has an all-around strong defense that returns 8 starters from last season.

Last season Notre Dame finished with a 10-3 record, which included a 14-6 win over the Panthers in a game that saw Pitt out-gain Notre Dame 402 to 185 in total yardage.

On offense, the keys to a Panther win will be to avoid the turnovers that hurt them so badly in last season's contest. Pitt totaled 4 turnovers in that game. They will also need to establish a running game on offense and eliminate the big play on defense. On defense, they must shut down the Irish running game and put pressure on the freshman QB when he goes back into the pocket to pass.

Pitt had as many as 8 players nursing injuries after the Texas A&M win two weeks ago, so hopefully the extra week of rest allowed them to return to health.

This is the second game in a row to feature the Panters on national TV. It's also a big recruiting weekend as many top high school recruits will be at Heinz Field to see the team in person. There is also good chance that this game will break the Heinz Field attendance record for a football game. The Pitt athletic department is asking for everyone to be in their seats 30 minutes prior to kickoff and to be wearing the Panther blue and gold.

Brian Gold
PittInsiders.com


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