Pitt star Dorsett recalls 303-yard performance against Notre Dame
Tony Dorsett recalls his long, spectacular runs, how Pitt linemen opened big holes in the Notre Dame defense and, of course, that special number: 303.
But when Dorsett, the greatest running back in Pitt history, thinks about Nov. 15, 1975 — the day he ran the length of three football fields against the Irish — he always thinks about what went on at the bottom of those piles of humanity when the defense finally did catch him.
“They were trying to pull your eyes; they were pinching you, biting you,” he said.
Of course, Dorsett got the ultimate revenge.
“Notre Dame was known to be big and strong,” he said, “but they weren’t as fast as some of us.”
Dorsett, who lives in Dallas, and some of his teammates from the 1976 national championship team are coming to town Saturday for the nationally televised game at Heinz Field between Pitt and Notre Dame. It will be the 69th renewal of the rivalry, which dates to 1909.
Dorsett, who was invited to speak to the team in 2011 by former coach Todd Graham, said he has no plans to do the same this weekend.
“But if they ask me, I’ll be there,” he said.
In four games against Notre Dame from 1973-1976 (two victories, two defeats), Dorsett ran for 754 yards on 96 attempts, which stands as a college football record for a player against one team.
“I thought it was more than that,” he said.
In front of a crowd of 56,480 at Pitt Stadium, Dorsett set a school record with 303 yards rushing, the most by any player against Notre Dame. That doesn’t include the 49 yards he ran for a touchdown on a screen pass.
Bill Hillgrove, who has called Pitt games on the radio since 1970, remembers running into Notre Dame athletic director Moose Krause at halftime.
“I was coming down the steps at that rickety, old press box at Pitt Stadium and Moose Krause was saying, ‘We didn’t make any adjustments (to stop Dorsett).’ I felt like saying, ‘Moose, what are you going to adjust to?’ ”
“We didn’t realize how fast this guy was,” said Luther Bradley, a Notre Dame defensive back who was a 1978 first-round draft choice of the Detroit Lions. “He wasn’t a big guy, but he was pretty ripped. Once he broke away, nobody was going to catch this guy.”
Bradley remembers chasing Dorsett out of bounds and hitting him late.
“He said some curse words; I had some cuss words, too,” Bradley said.
Dorsett isn’t sure Bradley was the player in question, but he said he does recall the play.
“I threw the ball off his helmet,” Dorsett said.
Dorsett said he always was motivated to play Notre Dame after word got back to him that assistant Tom Pagna told coach Ara Parseghian that “the skinny, little kid from Aliquippa” never would make it as a major college running back.
Dorsett admits he isn’t sure the story is true, but he said, “I always felt I had something to prove. Nobody had to say anything to me. All I needed to know is we were playing Notre Dame.”