Notre Dame All-America nose tackle Chris Zorich limped in pain yesterday from a knee injury that will keep him out of the Irish lineup for an indefinite period.
The national championship hopes of Notre Dame, which moved up a notch in this week's Associated Press poll to No. 2 behind Virginia, may very well ride on how long the Irish defensive star will be missing.
Irish coach Lou Holtz said on his television show Zorich may be lost for the season but team doctors said any long-term prognosis is uncertain at this point.
Zorich suffered a partly dislocated knee cap in the third quarter of Notre Dame's 31-22 victory over Pitt on Saturday.
Zorich is not sure what happened on the play, but Holtz said a teammate may have inadvertently cut him at the knees.
Doctors used ice and a Cryotemp pack to try to reduce swelling of the right knee after Zorich and the team returned to South Bend early Sunday.
A Cryotemp pack squeezes the knee at 40-degree temperatures to try to bring down the inflammation.
Team officials said Zorich was in pain yesterday and walked with a noticeable limp.
Zorich will definitely miss the Navy game Saturday at the Meadowlands and, depending on how treatment goes, may miss more time.
Notre Dame should be able to get along easily without Zorich against the Midshipmen, but will need him the following week at Tennessee, 4-1-2 and ranked 11th in the AP poll.
It doesn't get much easier for the Irish after Tennessee. They face improving Penn State (5-2 and ranked 24th) at South Bend and Southern California (6-2, 21st) on the road to close out the regular season.
"There's no doubt we're a bit different when Zorich is not in the football game," Holtz said.