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At that point he must have lost sight of Fry, looping in from the back, but he was safely ahead of him and sprinting out, looking downfield for the Pitt receivers on the right side. He might have run for some yardage, but Cornerback Luther Bradley blocked his path. He hesitated, and when he looked back to his left he saw Jones floating free in the end zone. He planted his right foot and threw.
Cavanaugh never saw Fry until his body came around after he threw the pass. The collision and the release of the ball were almost simultaneous.
Fry drove hard into the exposed front of the quarterback, toppling him backward with a legitimate tackle. Downfield, Jones was catching the spiraling pass as Cavanaugh instinctively thrust his arms back to cushion the fall. His left hand curled under as Fry smothered him. "I stripped him from the top down and drove his shoulders into the ground," Fry said. "I knew it was a good tackle."
Cavanaugh, in pain, stayed on the ground, but only for a moment. Getting up, he ran directly into the locker room, cradling his left forearm. There followed a series of press-box and public-address announcements, each one more grim than the last. X rays revealed "a broken radius [a major bone that affects wrist rotation]." The crowd moaned when it was announced that Cavanaugh would be lost for six weeks. The team doctor later said a brace on the wrist might allow him to return earlier. Cavanaugh throws right-handed.
The injury had more than just a dampening effect on Pittsburgh's fans. It dampened the whole game, took the air from it like a puncture and doused it of its vitality. "Dull" is a charitable word to describe the last three quarters.
The drop-off in quarterbacking was pronounced and dire for Pitt. Behind Cavanaugh were two non-players (that is, quarterbacks who had seldom played), sophomore Wayne Adams and senior Tom Yewcic. It is no use to belabor the point because neither of them deserves condemnation, but there were immediate breakdowns. With the change in cadence, the Pittsburgh handoffs became cumbersome and perilous. Without Cavanaugh's run-pass ability, the option attack carefully designed for Notre Dame was not only diminished but also became nonexistent. From the time of Cavanaugh's exit, Pitt never generated more than 11 yards in total offense in any one of its next 12 possessions. Six of the last seven times it had the ball Pitt fumbled it away or was intercepted. Four times it lost the ball inside its own 26.
With Cavanaugh optioning off the ends from his wider-split line, Pitt had found a way to go on its TD drive. Notre Dame adjusted in the second half by splitting its own tackles wider and substituting two quicker ones, Mike Calhoun and Scott Zettek, for Ken Dike and Jeff Weston. That, together with the suddenly erratic Pitt ball exchanges and a growing inability to coordinate blocking assignments, was only part of the suffocating process. In the words of ex-Pitt publicist Beano Cook (now with CBS), the Irish defense is "a monster God created along with Hitler and the Great White Shark," and, though not much fun to watch, it should always be regarded as a menace to navigation.
It does not, and did not, in fact, make for an interesting game: both defenses were nothing if not brilliant. With Browner, Fry, Middle Guard Bob Golic and poaching Linebacker Doug Becker happily stuffing themselves down the barrel of every volley, Pitt got a net two yards from its offense in the second half. Notre Dame had more opportunity but did not get that much more proportionately because Pitt's version of the Monster Mash—Tackle Randy Holloway, End Dave DiCiccio, Middle Guard Dave Logan, Linebacker Jeff Pelusi—was just as touching and clutching.
As Sherrill predicted, without Cavanaugh Pitt's offense was "ordinary." Notre Dame Coach Dan Devine pointed out that his was pretty ordinary, too, but that his losses—four offensive starters, including 1,000-yard Halfback Al Hunter, via disciplinary action—had occurred before the season. Until late in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame's longest run from scrimmage in the second half was nine yards, and there was only one of those, by Fullback Jerome Heavens. There was no Irish passing attack to speak of. And if you spoke of it you wouldn't have much to say.
So that leaves an obvious-enough question to mull after a crucial first game: How good are the heirs apparent? De-vine was not pleased by what he saw offensively. Except for an eight-play, 73-yard touchdown drive that beat the halftime clock and featured, in a stunning reversal of form, four straight completed passes by junior Quarterback Rusty Lisch, the Irish offense slugged along fitfully. Plays were tentative, and if there was imagination in their concept it was not evident in their execution.