Recap Week 10…#3 Notre Dame: Beats Pitt to become 9-0 for 1st time since 1993

#3 Notre Dame (9-0) beat Pittsburgh (4-5), 29-26 in 3 OT in South Bend.

Perhaps best summed up by head coach Brian Kelly in his post-game press conference: “We overcame a lot tonight…made, uncharacteristically, some mistakes turning the football over.  Obviously twice in the endzone…last year that would’ve been a loss for us.  But our team kept fighting, kept playing.”

Statistically Notre Dame dominated this game.  Pitt had just 13 total first downs, compared to 34 by the Irish.  They were 1-14 in 3rd down conversions.  ND was 1020.  Pitt came into the game averaging over 280 yards/game passing, but was held to just 164 passing yards on Saturday.  Meanwhile ND passed for 291 yards.  Pitt’s net rushing yards were just 144, compared to 231 yards rushing for ND.  And finally, Pitt had the ball for just 24:37, compared to a 35:23 time of possession for ND.

But the reason why the Irish entered the 4th quarter down 20-6 had something to do with the fact that Pitt running back Ray Graham rushed for 172 yards, averaging 7.2 ypg.  Brian Kelly said that Graham broke tackles, while ND missed tackles–but that the key was that they controlled him late in the game.  And one of the most significant statistics in determining the outcome of a game, turnover margin, weighed heaving in Pitt’s favor.  They didn’t commit a single turnover, meanwhile the Irish had 3, including an interception in the endzone as well as a fumble in the endzone (when they were going in to win the game in the 2nd OT).

Coach Kelly explained that the reason why ND stopped utilizing the running backs (they had 19 straight plays at the end of the 3rd/beginning of 4th quarter where a running back did not touch the ball) was that ND had problems blocking the inside and that Pitt was playing a lot of C0ver 1, so they decided to spread them out to move the football. Cover 1 helps a team defend against the run, which is why it may have been smart for the Irish to pass in that situation or just rely on their quarterback (there are extra men in the area defending against the run so instead of having a running back take the ball, he can be used as blocking and the QB will run with it or pass it instead–this is also because the QB isn’t used for blocking).

Cover 1:  This is Man-to-Man Coverage for all but one player (usually a Safety) who plays deep.  He will guard the middle and assist in the play as it unfolds.  This allows a team to put eight men in the Box (LINK TO DEFINITION) to focus on preventing the run.  As a result, the remaining players who will be defending against the pass must each be individually fast enough and strong enough to beat their opponents to the ball and prevent them from catching it.   Like the Cover 0, this is a very aggressive defense in which teams can blitz in a variety of ways.

Game notes on the Irish:

  • Improves Notre Dame to 9-0 for the first time since 1993.
  • Gives the Irish nine straight victories to open a season for the 16th time in school history.
  • Marks Notre Dame’s 17th win over its last 20 games.
  • Gives the Irish their longest winning streak since capturing 17 straight during the 1992-93 seasons.
  • Gives Notre Dame its 20th winning streak in school history of at least nine games.