Notre Dame football: Pitt's Bostick has special place in series
PITTSBURGH -- About three hours before Notre Dame and Pittsburgh kicked off Saturday night, shortly after former Panthers quarterback Pat Bostick chatted in the Heinz Field press box, the Jumbotron in the southwest end zone of the stadium rolled highlights from recent matchups.
It would have been no surprise if footage of Bostick was tucked somewhere into the montage.
Bostick, now a member of the Pittsburgh broadcast team, was the quarterback when the Panthers staged a 36-33, four-overtime win over the Irish in South Bend in 2008.
"That was the coolest game," Bostick said, "I've ever been a part of."
That's saying a lot, considering a year before as a true freshman, Bostick was the starting quarterback for a Pitt team that knocked West Virginia out of the national championship game with a 13-9 regular season-ending win.
Bostick, who in addition to his broadcast duties works as a fund-raiser in the Pittsburgh development office, embraces the tradition of the Notre Dame game.
He grew up in an Irish-Catholic family. His father's parents were die-hard Notre Dame fans. Bostick knows all about the big numbers former Pittsburgh great Tony Dorsett planted on the Irish. Not only does he know that Notre Dame ran off 11-straight wins over the Panthers at one point, he can tell you what year the streak began and what year it ended.
"So for us it's a rivalry that I think we cherish," Bostick said. "Every time you get an opportunity to play Notre Dame, it rekindles the feelings of just what a classic college football game it always seems to be."
Although his playing days are over, Bostick is still watching the program from a close vantage point. Pitt in recent years has had a carousel in the head coaches' office. Dave Wannstedt was jettisoned following the 2010 season. Former Irish assistant Mike Haywood was hired to replace him, but was fired before he ever coached a game because of an off-field matter. Todd Graham coached one season before bolting for Arizona State. Former Wisconsin assistant Paul Chryst is now in his second season at Pitt.
"As a football program we've taken a couple hay-makers and managed to get up and go to five consecutive bowl games and remain relevant. Now I think we have an opportunity to really elevate our program," Bostick said.
"But we've got to go do it. I think Paul Chryst is the right guy. He fits the city. We just have to rally around him and it's going to be a process. To think that three years of turn-over isn't going to take its toll I think would be foolish. We've managed to compete and play in some very big games, but we haven't gone over the top yet. And I think everyone's waiting for that. ... I think we're getting there. You can taste it."
He's also tasted success on the field, none more memorable than the trip to Notre Dame five years ago.
"Getting a win in South Bend, when we were driving away from the stadium was special," said Bostick, recalling his first-ever trip to Notre Dame. "I'll never forget it."
Notre Dame and Pittsburgh both played option-based teams the previous two weeks. Notre Dame beat Air Force and Navy with Pitt losing to Navy and Georgia Tech.
Irish coach Brian Kelly attributed injuries to four of his defensive players — Ishaq Williams, Ben Councell, Kona Schwenke and Sheldon Day — directly to cut blocks, a staple of those teams.
Pitt's defense, however, came out of its two-game stretch against option teams injury free on defense.
Song and dance
How did Pitt's week of practice go?
Well, on Tuesday, as the Panthers went through warm-ups at their outdoor practice facility, the musical selection was the Notre Dame Victory March.
"Not a big fan," defensive lineman Dorian Johnson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The same song greeted the Panthers the next day, with a new twist. A student manager dressed as a leprechaun and harassed the players. Post-Gazette Pitt beat writer Sam Werner wrote on his blog that the manager was playfully (he thought) tackled by Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald.
Earlier in the week, Pitt tight end J.P. Holtz expressed a dislike for the Irish.
"I don't like Notre Dame at all... I just think they're really cocky and their coaches are really cocky," Holtz told re-porters earlier in the week.
Notre Dame co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks, who came from Wisconsin, coached on the Badgers' staff with Chryst.
Pitt running backs coach Desmond Robinson held the same position at ND from 1997-2001. Panthers defensive ends and linebackers coach John Palermo was ND's defensive line coach from 1988-89.
Chryst's brother, Rick, played baseball at Notre Dame from 1979-83. Rick Chryst served as commissioner of the Mid-American Conference from 1999-09.