Initial Analysis: Notre Dame 29, Pitt 26
Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver DaVaris Daniels (10) makes a catch against Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Lafayette Pitts (23) during the first half at Notre Dame Stadium. (Photo: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE)
Wow. Never expected to be writing about a Notre Dame victory this morning when the Irish entered yesterday’s fourth quarter down 14 points, but I never expected the game to be close after seeing what Notre Dame did to Oklahoma last week. Just goes to show you how unpredictable college football can be.
I think I speak for most Notre Dame fans in saying that it feels great to be sitting at 9-0 for the first time in 19 years, but at the same time, it would be even nicer to see the Irish come out and dominate a weak opponent at home for a change. For whatever reason, this team just plays better on the road and at this point in the season, that likely won’t change. Good thing USC and a bowl game will be away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Let’s jump right into this week’s initial analysis though.
- If there was any question as to who is the better quarterback on the Notre Dame roster – I know for me there wasn’t but for some there may have been – it was answered yesterday. Yes, Everett Golson is going to make some mistakes and miss some reads. He is a sophomore after all. But, he is also the much better quarterback right now and his fourth quarter was a big step in the right direction in terms of his development.
- Speaking of that fourth quarter, when Notre Dame had to abandon the run and let Golson air it out he responded. Golson is also getting much more comfortable throwing the ball and that 4th quarter was a prime example of it. Yes, the interception in the end zone was really bad – especially since Tyler Eifert was wide open – but overall that was the best we’ve see Golson look as a passer.
- Golson is also running the ball very well and protecting it better. He still has some moments were he is a little cavalier with the ball – I think I had a heart attack when he reached the ball out on the two point conversion because I thought he had fumbled – but overall he has improved in this area from his three fumble performance against Stanford.
- All that said, if there is one area that still needs a lot of work in Golson’s game, it’s red-zone offense. Golson looked good at times in the red-zone, but it seems like he doesn’t see the field as well near the goal line as he is elsewhere on the field. He is getting better in this department too, but still has a ways to go.
- Big, big step forward for Davaris Daniels yesterday. The sophomore is developing a good chemistry with Golson and I think we will see a lot more big plays between the two on busted plays like we did yesterday in the future. Daniels ended up with a career high 86 yards on 7 catches yesterday.
- Loved the bubble screen to TJ Jones. That play was effective early on this season and then went away for the most part until yesterday.
- Cierre Wood’s fumble in overtime could have been a crippling play and there wasn’t really anything in particular Pitt did to cause it. Wood has to do a better job securing the football in that situation. Expect to continue to see Riddick get the most carries after that play.
- It was good seeing Golson find Eifert early and often, but would have liked to see him continue to go to #80 throughout the day.
- Didn’t like the play calling inside the one on Notre Dame’s 2nd drive of the game. Why not run the QB sneak there? Golson has shown the ability to get into the endzone on sneaks.
- Tackling was uncharacteristically poor from Notre Dame yesterday. Tackling has been very, very sound with this team since the sloppy performance in the Purdue game, but it was far from sound yesterday.
- Matthias Farley’s injured hand definitely seemed to effect him yesterday. He’s been great all season long since stepping in for te injured Jamoris Slaughter, but he wasn’t quite the same player yesterday. Hopefully he just needed a game to get used to playing with the cast.
- Stephon Tuit picked up another 1.5 sacks yesterday giving him 10 for the season – just 3.5 behind Justin Tuck’s school record with three games remaining.
- Huge game from Kapron Lewis-Moore yesterday as well with 15 sacks of his own. The elder statesmen of the defense has really come on strong down the stretch here.
- Liked what I saw out of Prince Shembo in coverage yesterday. He has been a great pass rushing threat for Notre Dame since arriving on campus, but yesterday he looked good in coverage as well – especially in the endzone.
- The third quarter was not a high point for the Irish defense with Pitt scoring 10 points, but they played lights out defense in the 4th quarter and in overtime.
- Fairly quite day from Manti Te’o at least by his standards. He had 7 tackles including one for a loss, but in general he wasn’t his normal dominating self yesterday. It was bound to happen at some point though given the extremely high level of play we’ve seen from him the last few months. Something tells me he might have a big play or two in him next week in Chestnut Hill too.
- Kei’Varae Russell’s speed was on display yesterday when he chased down Ray Graham from behind to save a touchdown.
- Still can’t believe this defense bottled up Denard Robinson and Landry Jones but somehow Tino Sunseri and Pitt were the first offense to score 20 points on the Irish this year. Pitt actually scored more points (26) on Notre Dame than Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, and Miami … combined (25).
- Kyle Brindza’s missed 43 yard field goal was not nearly as disappointing as his missed extra point. Luckily Golson was able to convert the next two point conversion to make it back up, but that could have been the play that cost Notre Dame it’s perfect season had that two point attempt failed.
- Still nothing to report on the punt return game… unfortunately.