After failing to defeat Notre Dame last year in triple overtime, the Pitt Panthers football team exacted some revenge Saturday, winning 28-21 at Heinz Field.
This win is huge for a variety of reasons. The first obviously is revenge and the second is just as obvious. The Panthers now have five victories this season and three chances to get one more victory, which would get them in a bowl game.
All of the games are doable, especially coming off the momentum of this game. The three games are at home against North Carolina (4-5), at Syracuse (5-4) and hosting Miami (7-2), which has lost its last two contests. The Panthers are 1-3 this season on the road, but their two opponents are in a similar spot they are and thankfully don’t run the triple option that has harmed the Panthers.
For weeks, Pitt quarterback Tom Savage has been slumping. It seemed as though the NFL Draft talk got to his head and he was not doing anything. Throwing for 243 yards may not seem like a victory but it is.
Savage, despite his struggles, is Pitt’s starting quarterback and proved it in this game by making the needed throws. Among those was a 63-yard connection to Devin Street, who broke a tackle and was off to the races, tying the game at 21 in the third quarter. Street caught both touchdown passes Savage threw and had 76 receiving yards.
The defense forced Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees to throw two interceptions, one of which was in the end zone. Ray Vinopal was responsible for both interceptions. Otherwise, Rees was not sacked.
Special teams continue to be a work in progress. Irish kick returner George Atkinson III had a 41-yard runback at one point. This area will need to be improved for sure. Big returns have haunted Pitt this season.
Back to the man in the headline, though. Panthers coach Paul Chryst needed a big win this season. Virginia Tech was a great one, but this one was better. This game, as much as no one will say it, was personal. Pitt felt as though last year’s game was theirs and with Notre Dame undefeated at the time, they had a chance to slay Goliath.
Chryst pushed all of the right buttons Saturday and got a well deserved and much needed victory. To say that fans were excited would be an understatement, but the players are soaking in this victory now before they prepare for North Carolina.
“To beat Notre Dame is a pretty big deal,” Vinopal said after the game to reporters. “It’s awesome to see the seniors so happy and emotional after the game. That’s what you play for.”
Scoring Summary Pitt vs ND
ND: Daniels 10 yard pass from Rees [Kyle Brindza kick] 3:41 7-0
Pitt: Street 3 yard pass from Savage [Chris Blewitt kick] 10:21 7-7
ND: Jones 1 yard run [Brindza kick] 6:34 14-7
Pitt: Connor 2 yard run [Blewitt kick] 3:47 14-14
ND: Jones 80 yard pass from Rees [Brindza kick] 3:29 21-14
Pitt: Street 63 yard pass from Savage [Blewitt kick] 2:12 21-21
Pitt: Connor 1 yard run [Blewitt kick] 9:36 28-21