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Fans and band flock east to Pittsburgh

Kate Antonacci | Friday, September 2, 2005

At noon today, Alumni juniors Mike Ferkovic, R.J. Kornhaas, P.J. Hoffman, Chris Disbro, Liam Moran and sophomore Steve Barbera will pile in a Buick Park Avenue and endure a six-hour car ride to the University of Pittsburgh.

After buying season ticket booklets for Pittsburgh in mid-July for $85, the Notre Dame students are ready to cheer on the Irish in their opening football game.

Nothing – not even a city that Ferkovic calls “the dirtiest city of all time” – will stand in their way. For these and hundreds of other Notre Dame students driving east this weekend, seeing Saturday night’s game up close and personal is a necessity.

“I definitely have to see Charlie’s first game,” Kornhaas said.

“Charlie Weis is the man,” said Ferkovic, who will wear a Joe Montana jersey instead of The Shirt, which he calls “ugly.”

The five Alumni juniors will be staying at Ferkovic’s sister’s house at a nearby university in Pittsburgh, which will see a disproportionate number of Domers flocking to Heinz Field for the season opener.

Some students traveling to Pittsburgh, like junior Patrick Schafer, are away-game veterans.

“I try to go to as many away games as possible, and I’m very excited about this one,” Schafer said. “A group of people and I are driving there. It should be a lot of fun.”

Others are looking forward to their first football road trip.

“I haven’t been to a Notre Dame away game yet, but since I’m from Pittsburgh this sounds like the perfect one to attend,” senior Ryan Brennan said. “Me and eight friends are driving over there in the morning, and we’re really excited.”

On the home front, students are preparing dorm room game watches, while campus-wide watches will be held on North Quad and Legends. For freshmen, this will be the first exposure to the football frenzy on campus.

“I’m dying to see it, the atmosphere of the school as the football season begins,” freshman Stephanie Grandits said. “I’ve watched the games before but now that I’m actually here there’s definitely a new excitement to it.”

Much of the excitement revolves around Weis, who already has students wearing shirts in his honor, bearing slogans like “Straight Nasty” and “Weis Guy.”

Last year, the Irish fell to the Panthers 41-38 at Notre Dame after a last-second field goal. But Notre Dame has won 16 out of its last 19 season openers and has been triumphant in five of its last six trips to Pittsburgh.