Notre Dame, in danger of losing five in a row for the first time since 1963, did what so many teams have done before to stop long streaks -- get back to basics. The big plays were only a bonus.
Allen Rossum scored on a 93-yard kickoff return to start the game and Autry Denson had two touchdown runs as Notre Dame avoided its first 1-5 start since 1960 by beating Pittsburgh, 45-21, Saturday.
"We spent a lot of time this week talking about how to win a football game again," said Notre Dame coach Bob Davie, a Pittsburgh-area native and former Pitt assistant. "This was an absolute critical time for us to win a football game again."
The four-game losing streak was Notre Dame's longest since a season-ending five consecutive losses under interim coach Hugh Devore in 1963.
Denson scored on a 50-yard run only 6 1/2 minutes after Rossum's touchdown to give Notre Dame (2-4) a 14-0 lead -- by far its biggest of the season -- and jump-start the Fighting Irish's first victory since beating Georgia Tech, 17-13, in their opener.
The Irish had two kickoff return touchdowns -- one by backup quarterback Jarious Jackson on an onside kick with 13 seconds to play -- and three scoring plays of 40 yards or longer. Previously, they had only eight plays of 29 yards or longer all season.
"It's nice to see some of those white teeth again," Davie said. "I'm happy to see our players smiling again."
Most of the smiles were generated by a previously ignored running game that was the difference in Notre Dame's eighth consecutive victory over Pittsburgh (3-3) since 1987. The Fighting Irish outrushed Pittsburgh, 317-133.
"The running game just took off," said Irish quarterback Ron Powlus, who was 13 of 20 for 160 yards. "I think our offensive line made their minds up to make this happen."
Crimson all over Big Red
ITHACA -- Chris Menick ran for a career-high 144 yards and three touchdowns to lead Harvard (3-1 overall, 2-0 in the league) to a 34-9 Ivy League romp over Cornell (1-3, 1-2).
Rich Linden had a career-high 266 yards passing, completing 20 of 27 attempts as Harvard rolled up 464 yards of total offense.
Cornell (1-3, 1-2) got all its scoring on the kicks of John McCombs, with field goals of 23, 36 and 40 yards. Scott Carroll led Cornell with 118 yards, hitting 16 of his 24 pass attempts.
Colgate pounds Lafayette
EASTON, Pa. -- Daymon Smith ran for three touchdowns in the first half as Colgate (4-1, 3-0) rolled up 496 yards of total offense in a 44-6 Patriot League win over Lafayette (1-5, 0-3).
The Red Raiders scored on their first five possessions. Ed Weiss and Smith both rushed for 107 yards, with quarterback Ryan Vena throwing for 186 yards and a touchdown on 14-for-19 passing.
Slump reaches 73 games
LORMAN, Miss. -- Mose Lemon passed for 224 yards and two touchdowns as Alcorn State (3-4, 3-1) took a 24-9 Southwestern Athletic Conference win over Prairie View (0-5, 0-4), extending the Panthers' NCAA record losing streak to 73 games.
Prairie View still hasn't won in the 1990s. The Panthers' streak of futility dates back to a 21-12 victory over Mississippi Valley State on Oct. 31, 1989.
Alcorn has won 19 straight against Prairie View and 37 of 50 games in the series.