Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Far from perfect, but win is a win

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PITTSBURGH --- While Notre Dame has yet to put its self destructive tendencies behind it, the Irish were at least able to overcome their own mistakes in a 15-12 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday before 65,050 at Heinz Field. 

Tyler Eifert caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Rees with 6:48 left to put Notre Dame (2-2) up for good. Rees had fumbled and threw an interception in the first half, and nearly had passes picked off on several other occasions, but he was at his best while leading Notre Dame on an 11-play, 85-yard drive in the fourth quarter.

Rees was 8-for-8 for 74 yards on the drive. Five passes, including the two-point conversion, were to Eifert. Rees completed 24 of 41 passes for 216 yards on the day. 

The Notre Dame defense came up with two sacks on Pittsburgh's (2-2) final drive to seal the win. 

When coach Brian Kelly's team wasn't hurting itself with turnovers it was committing penalties.

A roughing the punter penalty on sophomore safety Austin Collinsworth gave Pittsburgh a first down on fourth-and-20 early in the third quarter. The Panthers would go to devour more than half of the third quarter on a 19-play, 80-yard drive that ended when quarterback Tino Sunseri threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Hubie Graham in the back of the end zone. 

Pittsburgh's attempt at a two-point conversion failed and they led 12-7.

Notre Dame was driving late in the third quarter when Rees' 23-yard completion to tight end Tyler Eifert was erased because of an illegal hands to the face personal foul on Notre Dame's offensive tackle Zack Martin. 

The Fighting Irish had eight penalties for 85 yards in the game while Pittsburgh had nine for 55 yards. 

Turnovers continued to plague the Fighting Irish in the first half. Rees was sacked by a blitzing Andrew Taglianetti in the first quarter and the ball came loose. Linebacker Greg Williams recovered at the Notre Dame 23. Pittsburgh would later settle for a 45-yard Kevin Harper field goal and a 3-zip lead.

It was Notre Dame's 15th turnover in games.

Jonas Gray's 79-yard run early in the second quarter gave Notre Dame a 7-3 lead. The senior ran off right tackle and broke three tackles en route to the longest run for the Fighting Irish since Terrance Howard went 80 yards against West Virginia in 2000. It was the first touchdown of his career.

It was sweet redemption for Gray, a former prep Parade All-American who entered training camp knowing he would play a key role on offense. Because the only other running backs on the roster are true freshman, it was critical that Gray establish himself as a reliable alternative to Cierre Wood while also providing a physical presence in short-yardage situations.

Then, on the opening drive of the season, Gray's fumble near the goal line was returned 96 yards for a touchdown in what would become a season-opening loss. 

Rees threw an interception at the Pittsburgh 5-yard line when his pass intended for Tyler Eifert ended up in the arms of safety Jason Hendricks in the second quarter. 

Harper kicked a 23-yard field goal with 9:13 left in the second quarter after the Notre Dame defense stuffed Pittsburgh on third-and-1 from the Irish 2. Ray Graham ran wide on the play but was forced out of bounds for a four-yard loss by outside linebacker Darius Fleming.

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on September 24, 2011 3:43 PM.

Pitt to put more pressure on punt returners was the previous entry in this blog.

Good (enough) win for Notre Dame is the next entry in this blog.

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