The Gerry Faust era in South Bend won’t be remembered with any great fondness. On a given day, however, his Notre Dame team could still knock off the nation’s best.
On this day 40 years, that’s just what the Fighting Irish did. Notre Dame scored 21 fourth-quarter points to stun No. 1 Pittsburgh, 31-16.
Setting the Stage
At 7-0, Pittsburgh was ranked No. 1 in the country as it arrived at the friendly confines of Pitt Stadium on Nov. 6, 1982. The Panthers had already defeated three ranked teams and were coming off a 63-14 rout of Louisville.
Notre Dame was 5-1-1 and unranked. The Fighting Irish had won 13 of the last 15 in the series, but it had been four years since the schools met.
Notre Dame Erupts
After three quarters, Pittsburgh led 13-10. That advantage, however, didn’t last long into the final quarter.
Reaching into its bags of tricks early in the final period, Notre Dame called a flea flicker. Blair Kiel made the throw to an open Joe Howard, who raced 54 yards to put Notre Dame in front, 17-13.
Pittsburgh answered with a field goal and was driving to regain the lead when Dan Marino hit Julius Dawkins inside the Notre Dame 30-yard-line. Dawkins, however, was stripped and Notre Dame recovered. Two plays later, Notre Dame freshman Allen Pinkett made Pitt defenders look silly on his way to a 76-yard touchdown.
That would be all the Notre Dame defense needed. Marino finished with 314 yards passing for Pitt, but for the first time in 20 games, did not throw a touchdown. After a defensive stop, Pinkett sealed the win and capped a 112-yard rushing day with a 7-yard touchdown run with just over four minutes remaining.
New York Times
The victory propelled Notre Dame back into the top-15, but the Fighting Irish closed the season on a 3-game losing streak. Notre Dame finished 6-4-1.
For Pittsburgh, the loss would be the beginning of a disappointing ending to the year. The Panthers won the next two games, but closed the year with losses to Penn State and then SMU in the Cotton Bowl. At 9-3, Pitt finished No. 10 in the AP Poll.
Despite finishing unranked at with four losses, Notre Dame knocked off three ranked teams in 1982. That included a road upset of No. 1 Pittsburgh on this day four decades ago.
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Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.