Bringing it from start to finish

The 3-3 Irish have looked, at times, as good as almost any team around. But the team has yet to put it all together in a complete, beginning-to-end dominating fashion.

Notre Dame outscored Pitt 10-0 in the second quarter of Saturday's 23-17 Irish victory. While still looking for that elusive four quarters of complete football, Notre Dame did show a big improvement in the second period, which had been a deadly one for the Irish in this 3-3 season.

Entering Saturday, Notre Dame had been outscored in the second quarter 29-12 this season. Of course, part of the reason for the lack of points is quarterback Dayne Crist's absence because of injury in the second quarter of the Michigan game, during which the Wolverines outscored their hosts 7-0. But the Irish also lost the second quarter to Michigan State (7-0), Stanford (6-3), and Boston College (6-3), while outscoring Purdue 6-3.

The Pitt second quarter included Notre Dame's 15-play, 83-yard drive that ended in Crist's 10-yard touchdown run, and a 32-yard David Ruffer field goal that came after Harrison Smith's interception.

Coach Brian Kelly, asked after the game about the team's need to play a complete contest and close out opponents, said, "Certainly it takes experience more than anything else. Because really what we're talking about here is a couple of individuals, if we make a play here or there, or we get something that goes our way, we do put the game in a position where it's less in doubt with our defense having to come up with a big play."

Flag on the play

Penalties haunted Notre Dame throughout the Pitt game. A roughing-the-passer penalty on a third-and-7 incompletion, committed by linebacker Mantei Te'o, set up a Panthers field goal attempt early in the second quarter (the kick went wide right).

Michael Floyd caught a deep ball late in the third quarter for a long gain, which was called back on a hold by center Braxston Cave.

And in the most high-profile callback of the day, Floyd's 44-yard touchdown catch was nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty on receiver Theo Riddick.

"Every team is going to get breaks, get some calls they shouldn't get and not get some calls they should get," Crist said. "That's just part of the game. Obviously it's frustrating, especially when it's a long play like that called back. But everyone understands that's part of the game. You can't dwell on one play."

Riddick's take: "It wasn't as if I was supposed to pick him. I mean, he ran into me and I was on the ground; from the audience perspective, it looked like it was pass interference. That was the referee's call and I had to go with it. … I ran to the sideline in disbelief, but it's a game of football -- anything can happen.

"It was a tough time for it to happen, it was crucial, but fortunately the defense bailed us out."

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