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Pitt Vs. Notre Dame: Q&A With ESPN's Dave Pasch

Last year, Cardiac Hill was hooked up big time by ESPN's PR department - in particular, by former Pitt grad, Mike Humes, who works there. Mike again reached out to the site and delivered, providing a Q&A opportunity with broadcaster Dave Pasch, who will be calling the Pitt-Notre Dame game this Saturday.

Be sure to tune into ESPN's College GameDay (even though it's from West Virginia) before the game at 10:00 a.m., then head over to ABC for the kickoff at noon if you're not going to the game.

Cardiac Hill: First, I've got to ask since I grew up in Williamsport, PA - what was it like to cover the Little League World Series back in 2007? It's a pretty special atmosphere in the opinion of residents, but I'd love the thoughts from someone who's been to a lot of places and seen a lot of events.

Dave: I had a great time covering that event. I played golf growing up, so I wasn't involved with Little League. The skill level of the kids, and passion of the fans was impressive. I think I did 12 games in 5 days, so I was able to get into a groove, and I really enjoyed it.

Cardiac Hill: You've covered several different sports in your career already - the NFL, NBA, NCAA football, NCAA basketball, golf, etc. What's your favorite and why?

Dave: Wow. That's a tough question. I actually covered the Chicago Blackhawks for 2 years, and did lacrosse in college too! There is something special about college athletics. The crowds, rivalries, and tradition-- you don't get that at most pro sporting venues. There is nothing like a College Football Saturday, and it's hard to beat doing a basketball game at Kansas or Duke--and Pittsburgh is a great place too. However, covering pro sports, you see the best athletes in the world every single week. Sitting court-side, watching Lebron James and Kobe Bryant up close is incomparable. Being at Super Bowl 43, and calling the Cardinals-Steelers game is the greatest event I've been a part of. Watching Larry Fitzgerald destroy the NFL post-season record books in 2008--I've never seen anything like it.  Do I have to choose? I like doing them all!

Cardiac Hill: The atmosphere at Heinz Field should be pretty good with Notre Dame in town. But, truth be told, sellouts are rare here for a multitude of reasons. I can't imagine your job changes for smaller crowds, but does it influence your style or interest at all? Part of me says that you're zoned in and don't pay that much attention to the fans regardless, but I've got to think a game with 100,000+ at Beaver Stadium gets you a bit more excited.

Dave: One of the challenges for play-by-play announcers is avoiding "playing to the crowd". You can't let that dictate your energy level or passion. It's hard not to notice when there is 100,000 screaming fans, or when there is a sparse, quiet crowd. You try not to let that influence your style. As for this week, whether the stands are empty or full, Notre Dame is in town, which makes it a huge game.

Cardiac Hill: In my opinion, Notre Dame comes into this game as probably the best 1-2 team out there. Pitt will have its hands full on Saturday, but always seems to give the Irish a good game. In looking at Notre Dame, what are some of the weaknesses the Panthers can try to exploit?

Dave: Turnovers have plagued Notre Dame this season. They've committed 13 turnovers, including 5 in the red zone. Pittsburgh can't count on that trend continuing. The Panthers need to play sound defense, and not give up big plays to Michael Floyd. QB Tommy Rees has been up and down, and the Panthers do put pressure on opponents QB's. USF and Michigan were able to run the football against Notre Dame. Michigan State could not, and the Spartans were never in the game. If Pitt can control the line of scrimmage, they can win the game. However, you're right. Notre Dame is better than its 1-2 record, and could still be a 9 win team.

Cardiac Hill: Here in Pittsburgh, we're well aware of running back Ray Graham, who ranks third in the FBS in rushing. But having played behind Dion Lewis last year, I'm not sure how well he's known on a national level. It's early in the season, obviously, but is word spreading about him nationally yet?

Dave: Not yet. His numbers are gaudy, and he's obviously very talented. Graham will play on his biggest stage yet Saturday, and a big game would get people talking more about him. Pitt losing to Iowa hurt. Even if it wasn't his fault--the better a team does, the more publicity the stars get.

Cardiac Hill: I think Brian Kelly is a great fit at Notre Dame and having seen him close up in the Big East with Cincinnati, know he's an excellent coach. While the Irish have had some historic coaches, none has really been a 'lifer.' Could Kelly, who's affirmed that this is his dream job, be that guy or is the coaching landscape such that guys like Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden just won't exist anymore?

Dave: I can't imagine that Brian Kelly would want to leave Notre Dame, and I agree with you that he is a good fit for the Irish. Kelly has won wherever he's been, and what he did at Cincinnati is pretty impressive. Schools are not as patient as they were before, which is why you don't see many coaches sticking around for 40 years at one place. If Kelly wins, he'll stay. If he doesn't win, then who knows?

Cardiac Hill: As a Syracuse grad, what are your thoughts on the move to the ACC and the whole realignment issue in general?

Dave: I'm disappointed they are leaving the Big East from a basketball standpoint. I will miss the rivalries with Georgetown, Villanova and St. Johns. With that said, I get the move. There is so much instability in college athletics, and the Big East was not operating from a position of strength. Big East football doesn't have the tradition or longevity that basketball does, so it's not as big of a blow from a fan standpoint. However, the Big East has great people working in that conference, and I hope the league survives and flourishes. Realignment will continue for the next few years, and I think down the road we could have 4 or 5 "super-conferences".