Good (enough) win for Notre Dame
PITTSBURGH --- Brian Kelly stopped to watch television. Notre Dame's coach had just walked off the field after his team's 15-12 win over Pittsburgh at Heinz Field on Saturday when he saw a TV mounted on a wall across from the Steelers locker room. The analyst was talking about how quarterback Tommy Rees had an uneven day but did enough to win the game.
He may as well have been talking about the entire Notre Dame offense.
"I'm really pleased with our resilience and toughness," Kelly said later. "We're playing the kind of football I want our team to play. It's not going to be an instant classic but it certainly is from the football standpoint of games you have to win on the road. You're going to be presented with some of these kinds of closely fought [games]."
Notre Dame had two more turnovers, upping their swollen total to 15 for the season. They also had eight penalties for 85 yards. They were able to overcome their continued self-destructive behavior when quarterback Tommy Rees led the offense on a 11-play, 85-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter.
Rees was shaky in the first half. He was sacked and fumbled. He threw an interception when he didn't step into a throw to tight end Tyler Eifert near the Pittsburgh goal line. He came close to throwing more interceptions before completing eight of eight passes for 74 yards on the game-winning drive.
"There were some new looks out there that he hadn't seen before," Kelly said of Rees, who completed 24 of 41 passes for 216 yards. "We had to adjust a lot with him. After he sees it he gets much more comfortable. You could see his comfort level in that last drive."
The Panthers did all they could to keep the ball out of Michael Floyd's hands and it worked. Their rolling coverages limited Floyd to four catches for 27 yards but left Eifert in single coverage. Eifert caught four passes from Rees on the drive, including a 6-yard touchdown. He caught another pass in the end zone for the two-point conversion.
"They were always adding extra hats to his side," Rees said. "If there was someone down pressed on him, they would have safety help, or spin a safety down to take away some of the quick throws to him. Having him out there opens up things for everybody else. Eifert had a great game. He kind of became the main option toward the end. When you have such a good player like Mike out there defenses try to take him away and you have to react and get the ball to other places."
Pittsburgh had plenty of time to mount a final drive of their own but sacks by freshman Aaron Lynch and Prince Shembo sent Kelly and his Irish off the field a winner.
Later, the coach offered his own post-game analysis.
"It was a tough, blue collar kind of day," Kelly said. "That's what was required from everybody and that's what we got from our team. It was good enough to get the win and get out of here."
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