This past Saturday left many Irish fans with more questions than answers. Lets start with the pre-game coverage and the keys to winning the game. “The ND Defense is stout but penalties continue to happen at key points in a drive. Can’t give Pitt those opportunities. The offense needs to continue to be crisp and give Book a good protection scheme. Special Teams needs to stay penalty free.” By the end of the first half, the Fighting Irish were un-checking keys versus checking the keys off. But there was a little football two-step going on. The Panthers couldn’t seem to keep their hands off the Irish defensive line as the Pitt offensive line thought holding it together meant holding your opponent. There was much adversity to overcome in this game.
The Fighting Irish are given an opportunity to set the tempo of the game. Though Pitt wins the coin toss they choose to defer to the second half. The Irish had only two possessions in the first quarter. The first possession was for 3:51 seconds. In that time period Book was 4-4 in passing, then offensive line was penetrated by Pitt resulting in a 16 yard loss on a sack. Two plays later, Book would fumble the ball, but he would recover it as well.
The ensuing Pitt possession saw key number one get unchecked. The defense had stopped Pitt, then it happened. An offsides call on special teams allowed for the drive to continue. And drive is what the Panthers did. 9:43 to be exact. Kenny Pickett didn’t have any deep passes, but he was able to orchestrate a drive that resulted in the Panthers taking a bite out of the home crowd enthusiasm as they went up 7-0 on the Fighting Irish. The drive also allowed the Irish a minimal 1:26 to run just couple plays including a pick to end the first quarter. If they were looking to keep Book off the field, Pitt definitely checked the box on that one. First Quarter goes to Pitt 7-0.
The second quarter started off with the Panther and the Fighting Irish not wanting to have ball for more than six plays. The Panthers lead that effort with two six and outs to the Irish one six and out. An interesting stat but nobody wanted to drive. The Irish found their stride in the middle of the quarter with some help from a Pitt for a roughing the passer call. The penalty continued an Irish drive that resulted in a Justin Yoon 22 yard field goal. The Irish defense had definitely settled in as Pitt could not get passed their own 31 yard line.
The Irish opened their drive on the Pitt 49. The offense would find its groove on the drive. Book went 5-8 including a 30 yard pass to Miles Boykin. Book was also sacked twice on the drive. In the end, Yoon would put points on the board again, this time from 41 yards out. The Irish go into the locker room down 7-6. The bright spot in the quarter was that the Irish defense allowed a total of 17 yards of total offense from Pitt.
In a flash the third quarter got very interesting. The gamble to defer to the second half paid off for the Panthers. 99 yards worth of interesting to be exact. Maurice Ffrench would silence the home once again by taking the kick-off 99 yards to the end zone. Pitt goes up 14-6 in an instant. Talk about adversity, the run back put a huge dose on the Irish offense and defense.
A ray of light came upon the Irish late in the third quarter. After a 47 yard field goal attempt is missed, the Irish take over on downs. A 21 yard pass to Claypool opened the drive. Three passes to Chris Finke totaled 43 yards including one for 26. The Irish drive of previous weeks was back in full effect. Claypool who started the drive ended it when he was on the receiving end of the Book 16 yard pass. A failed two-point conversion left the Irish still chasing the Panthers 14-12.
Notre Dame stadium has a mystique about it. The mystique is commonly called “Waking up the echoes.” The echoes made their appearance to start the quarter. Pitt drives and misses another field goal. This time the attempt was from 36 yards out.
After swapping possessions, the Irish get the ball look to seal the deal before it gets to late. After two rushes by Dexter Williams for 16 yards, Book makes a little magic. Book hits Boykin for 12 yards and then a pot of gold as they connect again for a 35 yard touchdown pass. The Irish find a way to take the lead 19-14 with 5:43 remaining in the game. The defense put the icing on the cake as Khalid Kareem puts Pickett down for a 14 yard loss on the ensuing drive by Pitt.
In the end Ian Book was 26-32, 264 yards passsing, 2 INT’s, 2 TD’s and QB rating of 158.7. A game doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes winning has to come with some adversity. Being able to play from behind and win a game such as this is a personal character builder, as well as a team builder as well. In the end, being able to react from playing from behind will help this team down the road as much Irish fans would prefer to be in control from the beginning.
Ian Book Press Conference
Brian Kelly Press Conference
Shake Down The Thunder Sports Question: The first three or four games of the season, the offense would come out, first possession, score a touchdown. Defense comes out and they would, you know, hold the team and not score. The last couple weeks, you guys have faced a little bit of adversity in those areas. Can you talk about how the adversity is going to help this team down the road?
🏈🏈🏈 Julian Okwara 6 tackles, 7 QB Hurries
🏈🏈 Miles Boykin 4 targets, 84 yards receiving (long of 35 yards), 1 TD
🏈 Justin Yoon 2-2 on field goal attempts (long of 41 yards)
The Fighting Irish are in a much-needed bye week. Next up for the Irish is Navy in two weeks in San Diego. Until then Cheers and Go Irish!