Notre Dame Beats Pitt, Steals Win In Triple-OT

“Avoid The Noise”. That sign hangs in the Notre Dame locker room as a constant reminder to stay focused on the task at hand, and ignore the hype that surrounds a team that is squarely in the midst of the National Championship race.

Maybe the Pitt game will serve as a more obvious reminder.

Notre Dame came out flat, there’s no doubt about that. What is surprising is that the defense was as much of a culprit as the offense. Ray Graham was slicing his way all the way into the Irish secondary from play one. He totaled 172 yards on the ground for the game, and his particularly successful first three quarters had Pitt feeling pretty good about a 20-6 lead in the fourth quarter.

The Irish offense had done very little in the first 3 quarters. Or at least had very little to show for it on the scoreboard (Notre Dame ended up with 34 first downs to Pitt’s 13 — it’s actually quite amazing that we trailed so much, but 3 turnovers will do that). Starting quarterback Everett Golson had been benched at the start of the second half but Tommy Rees failed to ignite the offense and was removed after an egregious interception, as BK flip-flopped back to Golson.

Photo by @KevinDeShazo via Twitter

 

As always, this Notre Dame team truly believed it could win. Golson came out and capped a fantastic touchdown drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to TJ Jones. Down just 7 points, right? Wrong. A bad snap and hold on the extra point contributes to Kyle Brindza’s second miss on the day, so the Irish trail 20-12 with under 14 minutes to play.

Of course, our championship-caliber defense gets the stop and puts the ball back in the hands of the offense, although due to an excellent punt and an error by Davonte Neal the Irish were backed up on their own 2 yardline.

Everett Golson and the offense had all the momentum after the last touchdown, and moved the ball with ease down the field. We were certainly going to score when we got down to the goal-line. But, at the worst moment possible, Golson threw an awful pick right into the hands of a Pitt defender in the redzone.

Oddly enough, at this point, Pitt began to collapse.

You can’t entirely blame them. Pitt was 4-4 on the season and had a chance to pull off a tremendous upset on the road and validate their hero, Mark May. So instead of running the ball and wasting the clock or forcing Notre Dame to use its timeouts, Pitt was going for the jugular. And they failed.

Notre Dame stopped the Panthers, got the ball back, and found a way to tie it up 20-20. Overtime it is.

Neither offense showed up in overtime #1, but the kickers managed to do their jobs (which felt like a major win for Notre Dame — the nerves in the stadium were unbelievable).

Notre Dame seemed to figure things out in the second overtime. On the 2 yard-line yet again, all Cierre Wood has to do is pound it in on 2nd down, right? Cierre finds a hole, dives for the endzone, stretches out the ball….and fumbles. No doubt about it, and to make things worse, Pitt recovers. All the Panthers have to do is make a field goal, and bye-bye national championship for Notre Dame.

Pitt’s kicker, Kevin Harper, has been extremely reliable on the season. He had made his last eight field goal attempts. And he had a chance to make a 33-yard chip shot to finish the Irish off.

But the stadium got loud. REALLY LOUD. Loud enough to rattle any kicker, and rattled he was. That field goal was not going in. Call it MantiFest Destiny.

Although, you’ll now be hearing about some controversy on the play:

 

 

Hey, I’m not complaining.

Pitt’s will was broken then and there, and the Irish went on to win 29-26 in triple-overtime.

Did we steal a win? It appears so, but sorry I’m not sorry. 9-0 feels really, really good. Let’s just hope the Irish can avoid the noise next week.

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