Initial Impressions – Notre Dame 23, Pitt 17

Notre Dame jumped out to an early lead for the second week in a row, but this time the Irish needed a late defensive stand to hold on for a 23-17 win over Pitt. Here are this week’s initial impressions.


  • Dayne Crist is still a work in progress. He’s showing signs of really picking up the offense at times, but other times it looks like he is still thinking too much. He needs to trust his receivers are going to come down with the ball more too.
  • Armando Allen ran really well again this week. He needs to get more carries week in and week out.
  • One player who is clearly progressing each week is Theo Riddick. By the end of the year Riddick is going to be a very dangerous weapon in this offense. He’s going to break one of those bubble screens for a huge gain pretty soon.
  • After a few hiccups early with the shuffled offensive line, the line played fairly well throughout the game. Crist had plenty of time to pass and there were some lanes open for the backs.  It was nice to see Matt Romine step in and hold his own at left tackle against a solid defensive line.
  • Kyle Rudolph doesn’t look like himself and might need to shut it down for a week or two to get healthy. The overthrow by Crist was more of a result of Rudolph not being 100% than it was a bad throw from Crist.
  • I didn’t mind the play calling on Notre Dame’s last drive before the kneel down at the end. The play call to Ragone was wide open and would have been a very simple first down if Ragone would have just held on to the ball.
  • Overall, the offense is still too inconsistent. At times it looks like a well-oiled machine for a few series only to follow those up with three three and outs in a row. The three game stretch of Western Michigan, Navy, and Tulsa should give the offense an opportunity to gain a little momentum.
  • One of the biggest issues holding the offense back right now is the lack of downfield passing. Most of Crist’s completions are coming on simple routes that aren’t allowing for many yards after the catch.
  • Cierre Wood ran tough today when he got his chances. It was nice to see him bounce back after a rough outing last week.
  • Michael Floyd played very physical today, but still isn’t being involved in the offense as much as he should be. Kelly needs to start calling more plays for him downfield where he can just run down the field and use his size to get the ball.
Return of Shaun Crawford is Huge for Notre Dame Secondary in 2020


  • For the second week in a row, the defense was pretty solid, but got burned deep on a coverage breakdown. Mike Mayock gave a pretty good breakdown of the Jonathan Baldwin long bomb during the game – Jamoris Slaughter can’t drop his coverage when he is the last line of defense to go after the quarterback.
  • Speaking of Slaughter, he had a particularly rough game and might not have too much fun during film sessions this week.
  • On the other hand, Harrison Smith played one of his best games in a Notre Dame uniform. He was all over the field and nearly had a game sealing interception.
  • I’d like to see Notre Dame bring more pressure. When Notre Dame’s blitzed the last few weeks they’ve been successful more often than not.
  • It was nice to see Prince Shembo register another sack. Notre Dame is really in need of edge pass rushers right now and Kerry Neal and Brian Smith have been largely ineffective in that capacity. Darius Fleming had one of his better games as well, but overall Notre Dame has been not gotten much of a pass rush out of the outside backers.
  • At the same time, Shembo showed his inexperience on the bootleg touchdown run by Tino Sunseri and a play action pass later in the game. That is to be expected to a point, however, for a true freshman.
  • Robert Blanton played a great game and made some very nice tackles, but he too got fooled on the Sunseri bootleg touchdown run.
  • Ian Williams has become one of the better nose tackles in college football this season. He is playing exactly like how a nose tackle needs to play in a 3-4 defense.
  • Kapron Lewis-Moore started to emerge against Pitt.  He made a couple nice stops in the run game and got some pressure on Sunseri.  Zeke Motta is also started to emerge and had his best game of the season.
  • Today was a slow ay for Manti Te’o – mainly because Pitt threw the ball 39 times and abandoned the run for large stretches of the game. His roughing the passer penalty could be seen as a little ticky tack, but Te’o had enough time to stop or avoid any contact there.
  • Outside of Dion Lewis’s 30 yard run on 4th and 1, the defense did a nice job bottling up the Pitt running game.  After the show Dion Lewis put on last year against the Irish, that was nice to see.
Javon McKinley Returning for 5th Year Would be Great Notre Dame Story

Special Teams

  • Not enough can be said of David Ruffer’s performance this year.  Not only has he not missed a single kick, but he also broke a Notre Dame record with 15 straight field goal makes on a 50 yarder that cleared the crossbar by a few yards.
  • The return game still doesn’t look right.  After a promising first game, the return game has not been a factor for the Irish.  Bennett Jackson has shown some promise, but there just haven’t been many lanes for him to run through
  • Ben Turk had a whale of a game.  He struggled mightily at the beginning of the season, but he found his leg on Saturday with two 50+ yarders enroute to averaging 46.6 yards per kick.  Three of Turk’s five punts ended up inside the 20 yard line as well.  You never want your Punter to be one of your best performers since it means your offense isn’t moving the chains, but Turk was one of Notre Dame’s best performers against Pitt.
  • John Goodman is proving to be a sure handed punt returner, but hardly had any chance to do much else with Pitt’s coverage reaching him just as each punt did.


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  1. nd forever 9 years ago

    This is what pisses me off writers like whitlock(if that’s what he calls himself) use tragedies to bash players, coaches, or universities so they have something to write about.He’s like a union leader at a union rally just saying things to get people all fired up and see things the way he sees things.(I work for a union :). It doesn’t matter the truth. I just get mad at all the anti-notre dame hatred that has to do with things other then sports.

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    1. JDH 9 years ago

      I’m betting Mr. Whitlock got another rather famous college sports scandal WAY WRONG. Anyone remember the Duke Lacrosse case? He was determined to see that case through the well-worn prism of “class” (so called) and privelege. He reminds me of all those completely useless animals called New Black Panthers who walked around outside the Durham Cty. Courthouse, harrassing the players and their families. “Justice will be done!”, they pontificated.

      Yup, it sure was done. And, as nd forever noted, things like this many times are not about the truth.

      The opportunists will be all too happy to exploit, per usual.

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  2. JDH 9 years ago

    Whitlock is a no-talent oxygen thief and hack. He’s calling for Kelly and Swarbrick to be FIRED? Really? Granted, should gross negligence be found involving Kelly etc., sure. But my god, it happened 24 hours ago! We don’t even know if Declan decided, HIMSELF to go up on the lift, against the advice of others! I’m not saying that’s what happened. I’m saying nobody knows yet. Yes, people will probably lose their jobs and ND will be writing some checks, no matter what. But to use this tragedy as an opportunity to bash ND (which by extension Witlesscock is doing) is unconscionable.

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