Home / Notre Dame Football / Keys to Victory: #3 Notre Dame vs. Pitt

Keys to Victory: #3 Notre Dame vs. Pitt

Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Cierre Wood (20) scores a touchdown in the first quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. (Photo: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE)

Notre Dame returns home after last week’s 30-13 win over Oklahoma in Norman looking to improve to 9-0 for the first time since 1993.  In order to do so, the Irish will need to avoid a classic letdown situation by continuing to do what they’ve done all season.  Here’s this week’s keys to victory.

Avoid the let down

This game has potential letdown written all over it.  Notre Dame is coming off a sound beating of a top 10 team on the road as a double digit underdog and is now right in the thick of the National Championship hunt.  The last time this happened to Notre Dame, the Irish were 8-0 in Ty Willingham’s first season after beating double digit favorite Florida State in Tallahassee and they proceeded to lose to a hapless Boston College team in the fumble fest while wearing bright green jerseys.

I think it’s safe to assume Brian Kelly won’t be breaking out the green jerseys for a 4-4 football team, but hopefully that isn’t the only lesson he preaches to his troops form that game.  Notre Dame has the talent on both sides of the ball to make this be a laugher if they are focused and play to their potential.  Coming off a huge win like the win over Oklahoma though makes it extremely difficult for a group of 18-22 year olds to remain focus.

Kirk Herbstreit made a great point last week about how up until this point, Notre Dame has played the role of getting no respect.  Well, a 17 point win on the road in Norman changes that perspective completely as now the Irish are being hyped as legit title contenders for the first time this season.  It will take a great coaching job from Brian Kelly and staff to keep this team focused this week.

Ground and Pound… Ground and Pound

Notre Dame is what it is on offense – a ground and pound team even if most of their runs come out of the shotgun.  Notre Dame has the line and the backs to run on Pitt all game long.  Theo Riddick has been running tougher than we’ve ever seen; Cierre Wood has been consistently great all season long; and George Atkinson should be back to playing the role of homerun threat after missing last week’s game with the flu.

This isn’t the week to get cute on offense and try out too many new tricks.  Just ground and pound the ball all day and let the offensive line take control of the game in the second half once they wear down the Pitt offensive line.  Pitt is giving up 141 yards a game and Notre Dame should be able to reach that total easily.  In fact, the Irish should be able to top 200 yards on the ground for the third week in a row if they come to play.

Feed off the crowd

One way to get over the letdown and hangover from last week’s win is to feed off the crowd.  The home crowd better be in a frenzy before kickoff as Notre Dame fans get to welcome an undefeated team into Notre Dame Stadium for the first time in a decade and can will the to victory to improve to 9-0 for the first time in almost two decades.  This isn’t the week for the down in front crowd.  This is the week for people to be on their feet from start to finish cheering til they lose their voices to thank this team for playing their hearts out each week and giving them a reason to dream about a championship this late in the season for the first time in such a long time.

If you are going to the game this weekend, please get off your feet, and fill Notre Dame Stadium with the type of noise that the Hosue that Rock built used to be filled with on a weekly basis.  This team has earned at least that much and they deserved to be treated to a hero’s welcome when they run onto the field tomorrow afternoon.

Let Manti do what Manti does

Defensively, Pitt does not pose any unique challenges for Notre Dame and they could potentially be without their best offensive player, Ray Graham, in light of Friday’s news that three Pitt players have been charged with assault.  So, just let the defense do what its done all year – feed off of Manti Te’o and let him terrorize the Pitt offense.  Te’o is firmly in the Heisman discussion and could pad his stats this week with another double digit tackle effort to go along with a sack or turnover or two.

Te’o was very effective on the blitz last week and should be again this week if he is unleashed on Pitt.  Kelly and Bob Diaco know that Te’o will beed to wrack up some stats in the final few weeks to really have a shot at the Heisman and while I don’t think either would ever drastically change their approach since the defense has been so stout this year, I would also be surprised if they didn’t try to find some ways to get Manti in place to make a few big plays to help his cause as well.

Continue to work in down field passes

While I would love to see Notre Dame run for over 200 yards again this week, I would also love to see Kelly and Chuck Martin continue to stretch the field with some downfield passes like what we saw against Oklahoma with the deep shots to Chris Brown.  Brown showed some serious wheels on both deep routes and now that he has come down with a big gainer, opposing defenses are going to have to respect the downfield threat he poses more and more which in turn should help continue to open up things in the running game.

Without looking too far down the road, Notre Dame is also going to have to improve its passing game over the next three games to be ready for USC and should the Irish do what we all thought unthinkable in the pre-season, navigate this schedule undefeated and head to Miami, they will certainly need an improved passing game to have a shot in any BCS game.

Everett Golson took a huge step forward last week.  He looked so much more comfortable in the pocket and finally starting throwing the ball up for his receivers and letting them make a play.  Kelly and Martin need to continue to develop him over these next three weeks so that by the time the Irish role into Los Angeles to take on the men of Troy, they have a balanced offensive attack that can take down the Trojans by land or air.

Am I getting a little ahead of myself?  Yes, yes I am.  I’m a blogger though, I can afford that luxury.

Go Irish!  Beat Panthers!


  1. Yeah, BK intended for this to happen. His plan all along was to waste a year on Neal.

  2. jeff,


    Can some of the BK apologists explain thr logic of this one?

  3. Davonte Neals’ freshman year of eligibility was wasted this year making fair catches on punt returns. Seems there are a number of eligible candidates on the team that could have played this role. Didnt Goodman play this exact same role last year.

  4. JC,

    Go up to my 6:oo PM post.

    What did I say?

    Let EG use his legs and go hurry up.

    Sounds like once again you and I made the right call.

    Having said that, JC, stay with us. Don’t go over to quickly to the delusional, uncritical, BK-loving, excuse makers.

    Stay with us, my brother. We need all the critical voices we can get to counter, the “everything is perfect, no need to change or demand a thing more from this team” crowd!

  5. BK better understand EG saved his A$$ today! EG’s legs were the key to this game period! All National Championship teams have horrible games like this, especially with BK still in love with TR, mind numbing to say the least.

    As I view it, this pathetic QB torture needs to stop. EG proved today he can definately handle the pressure at home now! So BK, do yourself a favor, live or die with EG for the rest of the season. Please, let the cards fall where they are going to fall with EG.

    However, if you totally want to destroy EG’s confidence, you damn near did a perfect job of it today! This team CAN still run the table if you stay with EG and stop dinking around with TR! 3rd Quarter starts for TR are a joke.

    Yeah, give me USC with the so called VAULTED defense! Looks like it’s working fine in their 62-51 ducks basketball game! I’ll bet they are not going to like our defense by the time we get there regardless of our record. 11-0!

    Today was ugly only due to BK’s lousy coaching period. Especially QB’s and special teams.

  6. We all saw the same thing – a flat team for 3quarters – I didn’t like putting Reese or even keeping him in so long – he showed why – a really abd throw – Agree the STs need a lot of work kick coverage has been bad all year – Where was Wood for so m uch of the game. On that first – first and goal where was the sneak on that? Got lucky
    Agree not yet to that real elite level – the O has to get its act together
    Let’s see what they do the next two weeks – If we don’t see a dominant team on bothe sides of the ball – USC and whoever in a bowl game will be really tough – Aside from all that – look at what we are griping about compared to two to five years ago – we would be crying about all those close losses instead of wins

  7. Great win for the Irish! This team is special. They certainly didn’t play their best today but they found a way to win. ND was clearly the better team (outgaining Pitt 522-308) but turnovers were extremely costly. They left at least 18 points on the field today and it’s tough to win when you do that. In addition, they settled for two field goals on their first two drives of the game – should have had 10-14 points on those two drives.

    I still think ND is a year away – they are extremely young and we are seeing some growing pains. However, through it all, they are winning. Their young guys are getting better every week and they have some great senior leadership on this team. This team is really fun to watch.

    9-0 against, arguably, the most difficult schedule in the country. Here come the Irish!

  8. Bottom line 9-0. Hundreds of teams would trade places with us right now. Onto our nemesis BC now.

    • Another bottom line:

      We’ve won 3 close games at home against teams we were heavily favored against. Two of them in OT. One of them in 3OT to a team that lost at home to an FSC school.

      Yes, enjoy 9-0. But don’t settle for how we’re doing it.

      Why can’t we demand to beat teams up like we did Miami on a regular basis?

      BTW: If we struggle on O against USC, just remember what Oregon did to that Trojan D tonight.

      • It’s fine to expect greatness but at the end of the day there are no pictures next to the record, just wins and losses. Bama and Oregon were not perfect yesterday but bottom line is they won.

        Your obviously a Steelers fan, remember how horrible they looked in the SB against Seattle. Who cares, they have the ring.

        I’d love to see every game be 40-0 but it just isn’t realistic. Your dealing with 18-21 year old kids. It’s fine to have a critical eye but try to enjoy the wins. There are very few opportunities to see a team have a chance to go undefeated. We’ve got that so let’s enjoy the journey.

        Is BK perfect? Hardly, but he knows more about football and coaching than all of us combined. He has a pretty impressive track record of winning and right now has a 9-0 team. It’s been nearly 20 years since we were in this position. It might be another 20 before it happens again. Going undefeated is very difficult. They’ve been playing pigskin in South Bend a very long time and there aren’t that many undefeated records on that wall.

        Enjoy the journey, life is too short!

  9. I’m sure Mark May is crying like a little girl! HAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHA

  10. 41-38 ducks, 3:32 min to go in the 3rd? What defense?? USC may shoot some ducks??

  11. I’m lovin the 9-0 record. More than that I’m loving they finished the game with pride. They didn’t quit like in years past. Yes, we’re not ready for the likes of Bama & Oregon. But damn has this team come a looooong way since year one of Kelly’s regime.

    The O is still searching for identiy. I don’t understand some of Kelly’s calls ( C Wood for example), special teams are aweful, & red zone scoring are a problem.

    That being said he’s built(ing) a team from the defense first persecutive. And in my eyes it’s working! The D is the idenity of the team and that’s a pretty important piece of the puzzle if we want to compete against Bama for national championships.

    There is plenty of negatives from this game. We found out where we are weak. I have to ask if this game would have been won last year? Or three years ago? Or 6? I don’t think so. Kelly has instilled FIGHT into these kids and that gets me excited. I’m no apologist….. Just a fan who saw the teams character come out despite turn overs & statistics.

    • Oh….

      I’m pullin for some upsets tonight….

      USC, OSU, & LSU better show up and play tonight!! Lol

    • But if he is an offensive guru and can make something out of nothing at Cincy, why not in year 3 have here some semblance of an offense or even have an offensive identity? You better hope BK is responsible for the D, because I am pretty sure Diaco will be the hottest name in the land for HC positions.

      • Agreed……Diaco is obviously a big part of the defensive succses. What I’m referring to howevervis the defensive personal that he’s brought in.

        A good portion (IMO) of the problem with the O is EG. he’s young, growing, maturing within the offense. He’s showing at times he “going” to be special often in the future. For now it’s most likly going to be hit and miss with him. The offensive line is all over place as well. Sometimes they act like their ready to cram the ball down the throats of a defensive front seven…….and other times not o much. BK has focused a great deal of his recruiting effort on the defensive side of the ball. Between those efforts, Diaco, & the athletes the defense has carried this team.

        The offense will grow…. It has to.

  12. fxm,

    There is no secret.

    Bama is the most complete team in college football in the last decade.

    Oregon is unstoppable on O.

    ND is very good (not great!) on D and mediocre on O. And they are downright dreadful on STs.

    Objectively speaking I don’t see this ND team coming close to either Bama or Oregon. I do think we can play with and even beat LSU or UF.

    Perhaps BK will turn something on and prove me wrong. I’d love nothing more that seeing ND beat Bama or Oregon in the NC game and have to eat my words!

    • Special teams are a nightmare. ND played horrible for three quarters. They turned the ball over three times and still one. BK needs to stop putting Reese in the game. Also, kick off team is horrible, field position was always better for Pitt. Turk is reverting back to the punter he was last year. How many times is he going to shank one off his foot and give the other team field position on the 50. Is there anyone else who can kick. Golson is learning but very hot and cold. Wide receivers dropped some balls today. This game shouldn’t have been as close. ND beat themselves and good teams don’t do that. I have five teams better than them and a loss at the Condoms

      • Jack,

        BTW: I just saw ASU’s QB (YES, QB!) execute a better pooch ount than Turk has done in his entire misbegotten ND career!

  13. Wow, the Ducks are wiping their butt with USC. Our coach allegedly has some of that secret formula, but I guess he is saving it for some more pressing occasions.

  14. BTW: I can just here the excuse makers now, that is, when they get out of the closet and put on their rose-colored glasses.

    They’ll say something like, wow, can some of you just be happy and enjoy ND being 9-0?

    My response to that is no, losers, there are no trophies or titles given for being 9-0. Have ND fans become so accustomed to losing that they’ll celebrate anything?!

    We just barely beat at home in triple OT an unranked team that lost at home to Youngstown St.!

    Can anyone stop Oregon?!

    Frankly, my wishes notwithstanding, I’d love to see Alabama play Oregon for the NC to see true strength vs. true strength. The proverbial clash of the immovable object vs. the unstoppable force.

    For the record: No, I don’t think ND can score enough on Bama or stop Oregon enough to give either team a game. Would love to be proved wrong, however!

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