Rushing to a record
Joe Hettler | Sunday, October 12, 2003
PITTSBURGH – Julius Jones had 152 rushing yards in his first four games for Notre Dame this season. He surpassed that total in the first three quarters against Pittsburgh Saturday night.Jones broke Notre Dame’s single-game school rushing record with 262 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns and the Notre Dame defense recorded eight sacks while hassling Pittsburgh quarterback Rod Rutherford all game, helping the Irish beat No. 16 Pittsburgh 20-14 at Heinz Field.The win was Notre Dame’s first on the road this season and snapped a three-game losing streak.”I believed in our football team,” Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said. “There will always be tough times. I liked our attitude and I liked our approach.”Ryan Grant added 27 carries and 84 yards as Notre Dame rushed for a season-high 352 yards. It was the most rushing yards for Notre Dame since Aug. 28, 1999 against Kansas.”I think our weakest part in the game has been the running,” Willingham said. “We wanted to see if we could improve and once we did that, we wanted to continue it.”Jones ignited the Irish throughout the game with solid runs, while the offensive line played well and opened holes for both backs. He had three touchdown runs, all over 25 yards, including a 61-yard scamper in the fourth quarter. He surpassed his career-high 149-yard rushing yards in the third quarter.”It was a great feeling to get the win and get things on track,” Jones said. “Things opened up for us as a whole team. We had a lot to step up to the plate. I give the offensive line all the credit, they gave me some room to run and it was a great game for us.”Notre Dame’s defense was as impressive as Jones in holding the nation’s eighth-ranked offense to a mere 175 total yards. Larry Fitzgerald, who entered the game averaging 145 yards receiving, had only five catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, but was held without a catch in the second half. Rutherford was only 3-for-15 in the second half and was under pressure throughout the game.”That’s what the goal is, to go out and dominant,” linebacker Courtney Watson said. “I don’t think you ever think you’re going to go out and dominate on every single play, especially against a team like that. I think we just played a great game.” The Irish couldn’t move the ball on the opening drive and had to punt, but Jared Clark recovered William Ferguson muffed punt catch and Notre Dame had the ball at the Pittsburgh 34. Three plays later, Jones broke through for a 25-yard touchdown, picking up a key block from fullback Josh Schmidt to give Notre Dame the early 7-0 lead.The Irish defense gave its offense the ball in Pittsburgh territory on the next two possessions, but the offense could not capitalize – D.J. Fitzpatrick missed a 52-yard field goal and the Irish failed on a fourth-down attempt.Pittsburgh fought back to tie the game when Rutherford found Ftizgerald for a 23-yard touchdown on the last play of the first quarter. After Notre Dame went three-and-out, Pittsburgh’s Ferguson broke a 71-yard return to the Irish 4-yard line, Two plays later, Pittsburgh went on top when Rutherford found Fitzgerald again to give the Panthers a 14-7 edge.But Jones and the offensive line answered as the senior broke off a 49-yard touchdown run to tie the game with 8:54 left in the first half.Irish linebacker Derek Curry sacked Rutherford on the next drive and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Derek Landri at the Pittsburgh 8-yard line. After failing to score a touchdown, Fitzgerald nailed a 19-yard field goal to put Notre Dame ahead 17-14 at halftime.The Irish put together a six-play, 52-yard drive in the middle of the third quarter and Fitzpatrick added his second field goal to give the Irish a 20-14 lead with 7:10 remaining in the third quarter.Notre Dame took the ball deep in Pittsburgh territory with just over nine minutes on the clock. The offense ran the time out with a 15-play drive that consisted of 14 runs and only one pass.