Pitt Falls To No. 5 Notre Dame 42-30, But ACC Title Hopes Remain Alive


While heading to Heinz Field yesterday morning, I was unsure how legit the No. 5 Notre Dame Irish really were.

In front of the largest Pitt football attendance at Heinz Field (68,400), Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer made me a believer that Notre Dame is the real deal, throwing 5 touchdowns and scoring another from the ground.

I figured Pitt had a chance if they pressured Kizer and didn’t allow the deep passes to wide receiver Will Fuller, who is one of the best wideouts in college football.

But that certainly did not happen.

Notre Dame set the tone early on their first possession, as Kizer connected with Fuller on a 47-yard TD strike.  A 3-play, 75-yard drive in 1:11 quieted the Pitt fans but a loud following of Irish fans could be heard cheering.  Fuller finished with 152 yards and 3 touchdowns to help improve Notre Dame to 8-1, while Pitt now falls to 6-3 (4-1 ACC).

Keep in mind that Kizer, who completed 19 of 26 passes for 262 yards, was not even their starting QB to begin the season.

Irish senior running back C.J. Prosise left the first quarter with an upper body injury, and freshman Josh Adams stepped in and rushed for 147 yards.  The Irish don’t appear to miss a beat, despite the injuries.

At the game, I thought Pitt was in trouble when I saw the difference in size between the two teams in warmups.  Notre Dame simply looked bigger on the offensive and defensive lines.  They definitely won the battles in the trenches.

Pitt QB Nathan Peterman struggled especially in the first half, but his receivers did not help him either.  Numerous dropped passes killed potential momentum.  He finished with 223 yards, one touchdown, and one costly interception in the end zone.

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It also doesn’t help that Pitt cannot consistently run the ball.  Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year James Conner could have made a difference, but a difference in depth between these programs was evident. The Irish did not miss a beat without their best skill position players.

Depth is something that Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi will try to establish during his tenure at Pitt.  Brian Kelly is in his sixth season at Notre Dame, and his players do not miss a beat.  They only wait for their call to action.

In my opinion, the game was a tale of two halves, in which the offense and defense were never in sync.

In the first half, after the first quick Irish score, the defense held its own, but the offense could not manage to put up points.

Pitt needed to respond with a tying touchdown, and Tyler Boyd gave them that chance, breaking a 37-yard run, followed by a Peterman 26-yard run to the Irish 7-yard line.  But Pitt could only settle for a field goal to make it 7-3.

Following the field goal, Notre Dame capped off a 10-play drive with a Kizer to Torii Hunter Jr. 12-yard TD to open the Irish lead to 14-3.  Earlier on this drive, Pitt cornerback Lafayette Pitts sacked Kizer, causing a fumble, but the Panthers could not recover it.

On the next drive, Pitt went 3 and out with two incompletions to tight end J.P. Holtz.

Then the Irish went 3 and out, and were able to successfully recover an Adams fumble.

And then Pitt went 3 and out with a costly holding penalty.

And then Notre Dame went 3 and out again.

Pitt then moved the ball, but a Peterman interception at the Notre Dame 1-yard line to Matthias Farley stalled the drive and kept it a 14-3 game.  It was a poor pass intended for Jordan Whitehead.  I think Peterman would have connected with him if he lead him to the back of the end zone.

The Irish went 3 and out again for the third time in a row, and Pitt responded with their own 3 and out.

The offense just could not get it going in the first half.

The Irish’s next drive was only 3 plays, but it included a 24-yard run and a 46-yard TD pass to Fuller to make it 21-3.  To me, this was the back breaker with 1:35 left before halftime.

It isn’t easy coming back from a 21-3 deficit with a team that is not built to score quickly, against a top-5 team.

In the second half, the offense began to get rolling, but the defense started to break.

In the beginning of the second half, Peterman connected with Ford for a 37-yard catch, and then freshman Jordan Whitehead scored on a 10-yard TD run to make it 21-10.

One glimmer of hope from the game was freshman safety Jordan Whitehead from Central Valley High School.  He played offense for the first time this season, scoring two rushing TDs, along with his normal duties on defense.

Whitehead is a blur.  He can fly and is a playmaker.

With new hope early in the third quarter, the Pitt defense could not stop running back Josh Adams, and then Fuller capped off the drive with a 14-yard TD reception on 3rd down and 9 to make it 28-10.  Pitt needed to hold for a field goal there.

On Pitt’s next possession, the Panthers marched down the field again, as Whitehead ran for a 3-yard TD to make it 28-17.

Pitt attempted an onside kick and I am still not sure how the Panthers didn’t recover it.  The ball did not bounce in their favor.

At the end of the third quarter, Kizer was sacked by Ejuan Price to make it 2nd and 16, as the Pitt players jumped around like lunatics on the field and the crowd erupted to Sweet Caroline.

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  • Down 11, with the crowd very loud, the Pitt defense allowed two passes to convert a first down, and Kizer connected with Adams on a 5-yard pass to take the Pitt life out of Heinz Field.

    Had Pitt recovered the onside kick or stopped the Irish on the drive, Pitt would have had a prime opportunity to make it a 28-24 game.  Instead, the Panthers trailed 35-17 with 12:30 to go.

    Pitt went 3 and out following the Irish TD, and they could not stop Adams on the next drive.  He methodically ran for 5 to 8 yards, as the offensive line dominated Pitt, and it was capped by a 2-yard Kizer TD run to make it 42-17.

    Pitt quickly scored on a Peterman to Boyd 51-yard TD to make it 42-24.  Tyler Boyd finished with three catches for 84 yards, setting a school record for career receiving yards.

    Notre Dame changed their QB, who was sacked by Matt Galambos, and his fumble was picked up by Ejuan Price and returned for a 32-yard TD.  Pitt did not convert the two-point conversion, resulting in the final score of 42-30.

    Pitt had several opportunities to get back into the game, but the ball just didn’t bounce their way.

    Head coach Pat Narduzzi indicated, “We had too many opportunities we missed.  Whether it’s falling on a fumble in the first half or recovering a surprise onside kick, there were opportunities for us. We’ve just got to finish plays.”

    The ACC officiating crew did not give Pitt many calls, but that has not been a surprise this season.  I have no idea how Dontez Ford‘s catch was overturned, but I really felt like that killed some momentum.

    Ultimately, this game was exciting and a big-time college football atmosphere, but it has no effect on Pitt’s chances of winning the ACC.  Truthfully, last week’s loss to UNC was much more costly.

    Pitt needed Duke to defeat UNC yesterday, but the Tar Heels trounced Duke 66-31 to improve to 8-1 overall with a 5-0 ACC record.  They own the tiebreaker over Pitt in the ACC Coastal, so most likely the Panthers will have to win their final three games at Duke, vs Louisville, and vs Miami.  Then North Carolina would have to lose 2 of 3 as they host Miami, travel to Virginia Tech, and travel to NC State.

    No. 1 Clemson has clinched the ACC Atlantic, with their 23-23 win over No. 16 FSU, and they’ll likely either face North Carolina or Pitt.


    I did not think Notre Dame was one of the best football teams in the country, but they were definitely the best team that Pitt has faced this season.  With the No. 2 LSU loss to No. 4 Alabama, No. 7 Michigan State loss to Nebraska, and the No. 8 TCU loss to No. 14 Oklahoma State, it appears that Notre Dame controls their playoff destiny.

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    As of now, it appears that No. 1 Clemson (9-0), No. 3 Ohio State (9-0), No. 4 Alabama (8-1), and No. 5 Notre Dame (8-1) each are in control for the playoffs.

    Could the Big 12 be left out again?  No. 6 Baylor (8-0) and No. 14 Oklahoma State (9-0) will have a chance, whereas Pac-12 favorite No. 11 Stanford will host Notre Dame at the end of the season.