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COLLEGE FOOTBALL A Pitt-iful start to the '05 season


Published: Sun, September 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.


Dave Wannstedt's team looked overmatched against Notre Dame.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The stars turned out, from Dan Marino to Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett, and so did the fans who packed Heinz Field as if it were a Steelers game.
Dave Wannstedt's debut as coach was to usher in a 1970s-like era of championship-quality Pitt football, and everyone wanted to see it.
Then they watched this.
The Panthers couldn't have asked for a better start Saturday night against Notre Dame and its own hyped-to-the-heavens coach, Charlie Weis.
Tyler Palko, who threw five touchdown passes in a win at Notre Dame last season, drove the offense to an opening-possession score that gave the Panthers early momentum and confidence.
Then, thud.
The defensive line disappeared amid a game-long manhandling by an experienced Irish offensive line.
Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn ran Weis' creative and well-executed offense much like the quarterback who played for Weis in New England, a guy named Tom Brady.
And, despite his reputation as an excellent defensive coach who developed sound game plans and then got his players to execute them, Wannstedt looked as overmatched and as out of sync against Weis as his team did.
Tough loss
In barely a quarter, Pitt's 10-7 lead turned into a 35-13 deficit at halftime, and probably more than a few of the Panthers rooters among the 66,451 fans were feeling nostalgic for the Walt Harris era. At least those that hung around; the stadium was half empty by early in the third quarter.
Wannstedt knows he wasn't hired for this, the worst debut loss by a Pitt coach since Carl DePasqua's 1969 team lost to UCLA 42-7. He promised afterward it will get better, and soon.
"Notre Dame is obviously a fine football team and we must have miscalculated them, and that's my responsibility," he said. "We hit adversity, and we did not deal with adversity the way championship teams deal with adversity. We didn't handle it well."
They also didn't handle Quinn well, or Darius Walker, who ran for 100 yards and a touchdown and scored on a 51-yard screen pass that quickly blunted Pitt's game-opening touchdown. Or their own short-lived No. 23 national ranking.
What Pitt especially didn't handle was the buildup coming off an 8-4 season that ended with five wins in the final six regular season games and the promise of much better things to come.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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