Scoring early and often, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish coasted to an easy 58-7 pounding of the Pitt Panthers on Saturday. The Irish used all facets of their lineup to fashion scoring opportunities against their three-touchdown underdog foes. The end result was a thrashing that matched their 53-point winning margin against Tennessee State last month.
The Irish ended up with 535 yards of offense and delivered a ball-hawking defense that collected four interceptions. Special teams were also a key part of the storyline in which some early concerns gave way to another breather for Marcus Freeman’s squad. The victory also eliminated any conjecture about the team looking ahead to the Clemson clash next Saturday.
Below are some of the key aspects of the victory:
Joined in Progress
Notre Dame was coming off a dominating defensive performance against USC two weeks ago, so a potential letdown against a lesser opponent might have been a possibility. Instead, they ramped up the level of domination and helped the Irish coast to their seventh victory of the season.
The tone was set in the first half when Pitt only managed one drive of more than five plays and headed to halftime with only 113 yards of offensive yardage. Xavier Watts continued his standout stretch with two first-half interceptions that led to 10 points, More of the same awaited them after the break, with a pick-six from Jaden Mickey and an acrobatic interception from Christian Gray on the series after that. By the time Freeman inserted the reserves, Pitt had managed only 163 yards of offense.
Chris Tyree Time
Prior to this season, Chris Tyree had largely been an afterthought when it came to the Notre Dame offense. In 2023, his profile has risen with a shift to wide receiver and on Saturday, exploded with a standout performance. The shock of seeing the first Notre Dame drive of the game end abruptly evaporated a short while later when Tyree broke off an 82-yard punt return to make 7-0 in favor of the Irish.
On Notre Dame’s next offensive series, a seven-yard loss on the first play of the drive was quickly forgotten when Tyree snagged a pass and picked up 47 yards. Unfortunately, that drive was short-circuited with an interception but Tyree ended up finishing the afternoon with his touchdown return, three catches for 62 yards and one run for three yards.
Putting the Special in Special Teams
In Notre Dame’s first six games, special teams exploits were largely limited to the field goals of Spencer Shrader and the punting of Bryce McFerson. Jadarian Price’s kickoff return for a score against Southern Cal began to change the conversation. Against Pitt, this unit took center stage with a pair of touchdowns to their credit.
The first of these came on Tyree’s scoring jaunt, a momentum-building run that shook the Irish out of their early funk and helped get the rout going. In the third quarter, Pitt’s defense stopped the Irish and was set to get the ball back. Instead, the Panthers’ M.J. Devonshire muffed McFerson’s punt with Ramon Henderson recovering the ball in the end zone to make it a 37-0 contest.
Early Struggles for Hartman
For most of this season, Sam Hartman has been a steady component of the Notre Dame offense. All three of his interceptions on the year had come in the loss against Louisville but against Pitt, he had problems finding Irish receivers in the first quarter. By the time the period had ended, he had been picked off twice.
The first of those interceptions came on the opening drive and after he’d had no problem marching the Irish to the Pitt 32. His second errant toss came in the Red Zone and temporarily kept Notre Dame from doubling its lead. Hartman ended up completing 18 of 25 passes for 288 yards but failed to throw a touchdown pass for only the second time this season. The rout did allow Steve Angeli to get some fourth-quarter playing time behind center, a circumstance that can only aid his development for next season.
Notre Dame faces yet another challenging road matchup next Saturday when they travel to Death Valley to take on the Clemson Tigers. The Irish have made only two trips there before, the most recent coming in a heartbreaking 2015 loss. Last season, Notre Dame knocked the Tigers from the ranks of the unbeaten in a 35-14 rout. Two big plays accounted for a pair of Irish scores: a blocked punt return by Prince Kollie and a 99-yard pick-six from Benjamin Morrison. Notre Dame’s offense was fueled by a running game that gained 263 yards on the night.