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.

Offense

  • 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.

Defense

  • 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).

Special Teams

  • 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.

View Comments

  • How quickly fans have forgotten Rees' comeback vs purdue, Michigan Stanford & some other key throw. His weakness are known but He certainly has business being on the field. And ND might be in the midst of a mediocre season without a quality backup.

    • Agree to disagree. I think anything Tommy has done this season EG could have done. When he is focused and motivated EG is far and away the better QB. All of his stumbles and miscues I believe can be attributed to coaching and the lack of confidence shown in him by BK. If Kelly keeps pulling him in favor of Rees, Kelly will end up burning himself becuase he keeps playing with fire.

      • Rees is a great backup -- and has been significant part of this 9-0 season. Not a bad contribution for a former 3 star recruit.

      • No way of knowing for sure if he would have overcome his issues in the Michigan game but if he continued playing the way he did the 1st quarter and a half, we lose that game. Purdue, he was having trouble all game long getting the calls in on time and I think it was the right call at that time in the season to put in an experienced QB who has run the 2 minute offense countless times and it's actually one of his strengths. Against OU, we had a crucial 3rd down when TR got the wind knocked out of him and he made a great throw to TE. Stanford, no way of knowing how that would have gone because TR didn't play a great game but he played well enough to get the win. Overall, I think we likely lose the scUM game and go into OT against Purdue without TR. We had no choice but to go with him against Stanford, BYU, and the 1 play in the OU game. And he did his part. I didn't agree with him playing the final minutes of the 2nd quarter and half of the 3rd and he didn't do anything like he had in previous games but overall, saying TR has no business on the field when he helped us win 4 games this season and had a small hand in the OU win is ludicrous.

  • How about this for good luck. Wen Pitt missed the FG in OT we had 2 guys on the field wearing number 2. Should have been first down Pitt. Wow, what a oolossal blunder that would have been if the refs saw it.

  • ND Southy,

    What's more that had already happened to us earlier in the season against Purdue on a punt. ND was flagged then but Purdue declined the penalty.

    Just one more problem with BK's STs. Like I've said if BK can't see he needs professional help with his STs he's an ass!

    So long as BK doesn't turn to the Stillers' Mike Tomlin. for advice What a jackass! Fake FG and you run your kicker on 4th and less than 1 when your running game was grounding the Giants?! Only Les Miles is a bigger idiot when it comes to fakes!

  • I supported BK putting in Rees to run the offense as time was winding down in the 2nd quarter. I thought he was doing it because of his "closer" role. What I didn't anticipate was Rees starting the first couple of series in the 2nd half. I couldn't believe it. At times BK baffles me.

    At any rate, I think Notre Dame is going to continue to make us hold our breathe at times this season. Such a shame that Bama pulled out the win against LSU. We are definitely going to need help even if we are fortunate enough to win the next 3. But, as much as I love this team, I can't say that they are the most deserving for a shot at a title after watching them play against BYU and Pitt. Would love to see it happen, but it is what it is.... we aren't winning convincing enough and other teams are.

    I think the biggest issue in college football is the entire ranking system. We have been saying it for years....but if we waited a few weeks to rank the teams, it would go a long way to get a more decisive top 5 / top 10.

    Anyway.... a win is a win.... Go Irish!

    • As much as I want to see ND get a shot at the title, I agree. If Oregon and Bama go undefeated, there is no way ND gets to the NC game. And they shouldn't. I don't think the BYU game matters- we played without our starting QB. But going into 3 OTs vs. PITT and getting very lucky really hurt our argument. Oregon has a decent chance to lose one against Stanford or Oregon State (granted they'd have to have a crappy game like we did against PITT). Alabama only has Texas A&M left. There's a chance they could drop that game after a very hard-fought and emotional win at LSU. Fingers crossed. To have any shot, ND must DESTROY BC and Wake. Then win convincingly by at least 2 TDs at USC. It could all happen.

      • JDH,

        Got some numbers you might be interested in.

        The current SOS (Strenght of Schedule)

        The key word here is "current" as the SOS is sure to change after next weeks games.

        Current SOS rankings where #1 is most difficult.

        Notre Dame = 23rd.
        Oregon = 25th.
        Kansas St. = 29th
        Alabama = 33rd.
        (courtesy of NBC sports)

        Seems a little backwards when compared to the BCS rankings doesn't it?

        • I understand that and I have no doubt ND's schedule is more difficult. But it's likely not going to be enough to get them into the title game- that's all I'm saying. We need Bama or Oregon to lose.

  • Max Redfield had decommitted from U$C. Word is after he visited ND he was big on ND. Oregon may be a factor also though so who knows? As long as he isn't going to U$C I guess it's good news either way.

    GO IRISH!!!!

  • One of the things that I really like about Everett Golson is his passion for the game. The kid (like most gifted freshmen) has a great deal of energy and enthusiasm.

    But that can be a double edge sword with a young freshmen who wears his emotions on his sleeve. Especially at home.

    When Kelly put Tommy Rees in after EG comitted a turn over, he told Golson to "stay ready because he was going to be needed to win this game".

    That's not a head coach who is frustrated with his QB's play. That's a coach who understands his player. Understands that he needed to give his young signal caller some time to clear his head, calm down, and refocus.

    Hard to argue with the results. When Golson returned he made good decisions and played hard, smart, mistake free football in a real pressure situation.

    There will come a time when EG will commit a turn over, come off the field, collect himself, and go right back in and do well.

    It's games like these, and good coaching management that will help get him there.

    • Did I miss a turnover in the 1st half? I thought EG's only turnover was the INT at the end of the 4th. TR had an INT in the 3rd and then Wood had the fumble in OT.

    • I agree Shaz. I was not mad that he had Golson rest and calm down after he was missing reads and progressions. Tommy Rees has been awesome this year and I don't know why everyone has forgotten that. Not pretty, but he has iced games for us. Granted, he didn't do that against PITT. I was unhappy that he started the second half though. EG is just too dynamic to leave out for long.

  • too many mistakes, jersey foulup, fg, ep, interceptions, arm tackling, no special teams effort, kelly just cant seem to get it all together

    • bj-
      Why are you ignoring the glaring positives? Yeah the Pitt game was a hot mess and we got lucky. But we also fought like lions in the 4th and in OT to get the win. Kelly has taken a program that has sucked for 15+ years to being undefeated and going to a BCS game, and with some incredible luck to a title game.

      Does that count for anything?

    • Spot on bj, he's terrible. Why don't you start the firekelly.com website. My guess is he will be unemployed for all of 10 seconds.

      He just can't seem to get it all together. I mean c'mon they are only 17-2 in their last 19 regular season games.

  • JDH and Shaz-We just got back and watched the game; albeit nearly two days later. If people do not believe in the luck of the Irish they do/will now. We couldn't believe it was the same team until the end of the fourth qtr. Lots of shouting and yelling! We were tempted to fly ahead to the end, it was that frustrating. That is not to denegrate Pitt (great game plan and strategy). They played with fire too.

    As for TR. I guess we now can rewrite the axiom 'only as good as your last game' to 'only as good as your last play. I give him ultra credit for his loyalty and devotion to the team concept. Units need the TR's of this world. That is surely the sign of an unselfish team man. I'll take him any time. EG is the trigger man but needs a cooler head at times and Coach Kelly wisely sees this fact. He will grow and morph into just that-cooler head.

    On to BC and some hot showers and chow now! Take care and keep the surge of faith and energy. Stay safe.

    Go Irish and a concerted HOOAH!

    • Sad Warrior,

      I take serious notice of your comments.

      "Hot showers and chow"
      "Keep the faith & stay safe"

      Some of the simplest of things in life that most people take for granted.

      Makes me take a moment to reflect and be thankful to those who serve.

      Many thanks to you all!

      • Shaz-a concerted thank you from all of us. There is not one here among us that would choose to be in any other place due to the perilous circumstances and dire consequences should we fail. This is our role, our duty. Sure, we'd all give a years leave to attend one game live (I have been asked to tell you that the chosen game would be the NC game) and loudly root on the Celtic Lions! Someday.

        Take care and keep the belief. Stay safe my friend. We are grateful for your kind words and wishes.

        Go Irish! hooah! RLTW-ATW!

    • What???? Seriously, we have a chance at a national championship??? I'm sure the coaches and players have no idea or clue that possibility exists. Since they don't allow television, computers or newspapers within 100 miles of campus I'm sure they have no idea.

      Please write to Coach Kelly and alert them to this wonderful news. While you are at it, please notify them that water is wet.

  • Are u guys serious about Mayock? He's fantastic, best color man I've heard in a while, and light years from Hayden. He reminds me of Steve Stone, another great color guy, used to predict the pitches, just like Mayock does. You're nuts, he's great.