football Edit

Notre Dame Avoids The 'Pitts' With 19-14 Victory

With the Notre Dame ground game limited to 81 yards, Ian Book completed 26 of 32 passes for 264 yards, two scores and two interceptions in the Irish comeback win.
With the Notre Dame ground game limited to 81 yards, Ian Book completed 26 of 32 passes for 264 yards, two scores and two interceptions in the Irish comeback win. (Bill Panzica)

Junior quarterback Ian Book’s 35-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Miles Boykin with 5:43 remaining in the contest put Notre Dame ahead for good 19-14, and the Fighting Irish held on to defeat upset-minded Pitt Saturday afternoon in Notre Dame Stadium.

Pitt had two more possessions to take the lead. The first ended with an aborted fake punt in their territory.

On the second, after sacking Book on fourth-and-inches, Pitt took over at its 38 with 2:38 remaining. Junior end Khalid Kareem recorded a 14-yard sack on first down, and then three incomplete passes clinched the outcome.

After allowing Pitt to score a touchdown on an 88-yard drive on its first possession, the Irish defense dominated the show, led by a monster pass-rush performance by junior drop end Julian Okwara, who was credited with seven pass pressures and also had a crucial tackle for loss to end another Pitt threat in the fourth quarter.

Book finished 26 of 32 passing for 264 yards and two touchdowns but also tossed two interceptions. Seniors Chris Finke and Alize Mack caught six passes apiece for 62 and 31 yards, respectively, while junior Chase Claypool grabbed five for 61 yards and a score, and Boykin four for 84 yards and the game winner.

The Irish finished with only 80 yards rushing on 38 carries, with Book (16 carries) and senior Dexter Williams (13 attempts) putting up 31 yards apiece.


FIRST QUARTER: Pitt 7, Notre Dame 0

Top Moment: Pitt’s first possession began at its 12-yard line with 11:09 left and the Panthers methodically drove 88 yards in 17 plays while milking 9:43 off the clock. Running back Qadree Ollison took a direct snap from Notre Dame’s nine-yard line and romped up the middle for the touchdown at the 1:26 mark .

Crucial to the drive was on fourth and-four at Pitt’s 29-yard line, Notre Dame senior safety Nicco Fertitta jumped offside to give the Panthers a first down and new life.

Standout Performer: The running of Ollison (eight carries, 27 yards) and passing of quarterback Kenny Pickett (5 of 6, 34 yards) propelled the scoring march.

Stats: Notre Dame had only 45 yards total offense (5 of 6 passing for 31 yards, 14 rushing) while Pitt had 83 on its lone possession (not including the crucial five-yard Irish penalty).

Items: Book was sacked for a 16-yard loss on the game’s opening series to help stall that drive… The 7-0 deficit was the largest for Notre Dame this season … On the last play of the quarter, Pitt defensive back Jason Pinnock intercepted a scrambling Book’s pass and returned it nine yards to the Panther 38-yard line.


SECOND QUARTER: Pitt 7, Notre Dame 6

Top Moment: Trailing 7-3 with a minute remaining, Notre Dame converted a fourth down to give it first-and-goal at the Pitt nine-yard line. Two Panther sacks of Book then forced a 41-yard field by senior kicker Justin Yoon to pull the Irish within 7-6 with five seconds left in the first half. The drive covered 42 yards in 12 plays.

Standout Performer: Notre Dame’s defense, led by Okwara’s pass rush, forced three-and-out results on all three Pitt possessions in the quarter. The Panthers netted 17 yards on those series.

Stats: Notre Dame ran 25 plays in the quarter that totaled 83 yards, while Pitt’s nine plays resulted in 17 yards.

Items: At the 4:34 mark, Yoon’s 22-yard field goal reduced Notre Dame’s deficit to 7-3. The drive covered 44 yards in 10 plays after a Pitt punt.


THIRD QUARTER: Pitt 14, Notre Dame 12

Top Moment: Pitt receiver Maurice Ffrench fielded the second half kickoff at his one-yard line, made a cut to his left and outraced the Irish for a 99-yard touchdown and a 14-6 Panther lead.

Standout Performer: After tossing an interception on Notre Dame’s initial possession of the second half, Book completed three passes to Finke for 43 yards and 21- and 16-yard strikes to Claypool — the latter for a touchdown on a slant with 2:09 left to pull the Irish within 14-12. The two-point conversion pass attempt missed.

Stats: Through three quarters Notre Dame had 260 yards (207 passing, 53 rushing) while Pitt had 190 (97 passing, 93 rushing).

Items: After the kickoff return for a touchdown by Pitt, Notre Dame drove to the Panthers’ 24-yard line, but Book then was hit by Pitt defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman on a first-down pass attempt that resulted in an interception by safety Jazzee Stocker and returned to his 22-yard line with 11:41 left.

At the 5:00 mark, Pitt kicker Alex Kessman missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt to end a drive that covered 48 yards and left the score 14-6.

Notre Dame then drove 71 yards in eight plays for the touchdown… Pitt moved to Notre Dame’s 39-yard line when the quarter ended.


FOURTH QUARTER: Notre Dame 19, Pitt 14

Top Moment: On first-and-10 from the Pitt 35-yard line, Book launched the touchdown pass to Boykin in the end zone that put Notre Dame ahead 19-14 with 5:43 remaining. The 80-yard drive took only five plays and 1:43 off the clock.

Standout Performer: The Irish pass rush, led by Okwara, kept the Panthers at bay throughout the contest.

Stats: The final output had Notre Dame with 70 plays for 344 yards (264 passing, 80 rushing) and Pitt 60 plays for 242 yards (126 passing, 116 rushing).

Items: Kessman’s 37-yard field-goal attempt for Pitt missed the mark with 12:06 left, keeping Pitt’s lead at 14-12.

On a crucial third-and-2 from Notre Dame’s 47-yard line near the eight-minute mark a screen pass from Pickett to running back Darrin Hall resulted in a three-yard tackle for loss by Okwara. Pitt punted into the end zone with 7:26, which would begin the Irish game winning march... On fourth-and-four from the Irish 45, Pitt’s fake punt with reserve quarterback Jeff George Jr. was stopped with 3:34 left on a pass breakup by freshman rover Shayne Simon.

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