Eye in the Sky: 4th Quarter

IrishEyes reviews the offense's performance in the final period while pondering what replay official Jack Cramer saw that the rest of us didn't on Jimmy Clausen's phantom fumble.

First ND Drive/4th Quarter:

Breakdown: Trailing 27-9 with 12:44 remaining, the Irish drive 71 yards in 11 plays (3:34 time of possession) and cut the Panthers lead to 11 with a Clausen-to-Tate touchdown strike. Pitt 27 ND 16

  • (3-Wide): Jimmy Clausen's deep comeback to Michael Floyd is a bit high and bounces off the sophomore's fingertips.
  • (3-Wide): Clausen hits Tate on the left side for an 11-yard comeback and a first down. Tate was bracketed by right defensive end Greg Romeus and cornerback Jovani Chappel on the reception.
  • (3-Wide): Clausen is sacked by nose tackle Gus Mustakas for a loss of 12 yards on 1st Down. Mustakas whipped right guard a statuesque Dan Wenger at the line of scrimmage and Clausen never had a chance on the play. A solid block on the outside by right tackle Sam Young vs. dangerous left defensive end Jabaal Sheard.
  • (3-Wide): Clausen hits halfback Armando Allen on a delayed screen left but Romeus limited Allen to three yards on the play.
  • (3-Wide): On 3rd and 19 from his own 31-yard line, Clausen, with pressure behind his right side, steps up and fires a 14-yard strike to Floyd who turns upfield and runs through a pack of defenders for seven more yards and an Irish first down.
  • (3-Wide): Clausen hits Floyd for a 9-yard comeback on the right sideline. Floyd is noticeably tired at the end of the play (it should have been a 10-yard gain but Floyd stepped out short of the marker.
  • (3-Wide): Clausen throws a right side go-route to Floyd but backup CB Antwuan Reed is step-for-step with the gassed Irish receiver who made no attempt at the ball beyond his reach.
  • (3-Wide): Clausen gains two yards on a 3rd and 1 sneak behind center Eric Olsen and left guard Chris Stewart.
  • (3-Wide): Clausen escapes backside pressure (left tackle Paul Duncan was beaten by a Romeus outside rush) and gains 8 yards over the right side.
  • (3-Wide): Duval Kamara, lined up as the solo near-side receiver, runs a quick slant between defenders for a gain of 11 yards. Kamara looked extremely slow coming off the line of scrimmage, though that could conceivably be part of the timing of the play. Duncan (cut block), Stewart and Wenger do an excellent job in pass protection but Olsen looks sluggish/tired as he loses his solo-block late and barely turns to watch. This could have been an ugly, nationally televised missed block had Clausen held onto the football.
  • (3-Wide): Following a Pittsburgh timeout, Clausen fires to the left side to Tate for a 7-yard stop. Tate runs through his defender's arm tackle at the 9-yard line and carries him to the end zone, diving for the pylon for an Irish touchdown. The score is the sixth by the Irish offense on the play directly following a timeout this season.
  • Skill position subs on the drive: None. The Irish remained in 3-Wide with Kamara for the 11-play series.

Golden Tate/4th Quarter Punt Return Touchdown:

Breakdown: Trailing 27-16, Tate returned a Panthers punt 89 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Panthers lead to five with 7:16 remaining. Half-Man, Half-Amazing. Following the touchdown, Mike Ragone drops a tailor-made shuffle pass (and probably would have scored). Poor concentration from the junior tight end. Pitt 27 ND 22

Final Notre Dame Drive:

Breakdown: With a final chance to steal the contest, after penetrating to the Panthers 42-yard line, Notre Dame's drive stalls at five plays, due largely to a chop block penalty and curious replay review (ruled a fumble) on 3rd and 16 from the ND 27-yard line. Pitt 27 ND 22

  • (3-Wide): Again feeling pressure, Clausen quickly hits Allen on a six-yard check down to begin the drive and set up the Irish with 2nd and 2 at the 25-yard line.
  • (3-Wide): Clausen shifts away from mild pocket pressure to again find Allen over the middle for 8 yards and an Irish first down.
  • (3-Wide): Tate catches a 9-yard stop and fights to get out of bounds at the Pittsburgh 42-yard line.
  • (3-Wide): With 2nd and 1 near plus territory the wheels begin to fall off for the Irish as Wenger is called for an illegal chop block (15-yard penalty) which moves the Irish back to a 2nd and 16 situation back at the 27-yard line.
  • (3-Wide): With his protection completely breaking down at this point, Clausen spikes a check down to Allen as he's hit by Romeus who worked Paul Duncan over on the left side. Young got away with an "illegal hands to the face" penalty in pass protection.
  • (3-Wide): On 3rd and 16, Clausen is hit as he throws, once again by Romeus going past Duncan to set up 4th and 16 from the ND 27-yard line. A booth review overturns the initial call (Incomplete Pass) and the ball is awarded to the Panthers, who alertly picked up the football after the whistle blew.

    Though the initial call could have gone either way, the fact that it was overturned with no conclusive video evidence is absolutely ridiculous. To add insult to devastating defeat, had Notre Dame not called timeout after the incomplete pass, it's unlikely the play would have been overturned.

  • Substitutions on the drive: Just the replay official.

Game Observations:

  • Michael Floyd does not appear to be back in football shape after missing five games with a broken clavicle.
  • The Irish will struggle to finish/maintain long scoring drives without the services of a healthy right guard Trevor Robinson and Kyle Rudolph at tight end.
  • Golden Tate is the best playmaker in the nation for the 2009 season.
  • I'm with Pete Carroll circa 2005…Instant Replay (stinks). The Irish were outplayed Saturday, but they deserved a chance to continue with 4th and 16 and 2:10 remaining.

Final Score: Pittsburgh 27 Notre Dame 22

2nd Half Personal Groupings (Includes Penalties and Irish sets prior to time-outs):

  • Three-Wide Receiver Sets: 32, plus 2 more that coincided with 2-TE sets.
  • Two-Tight End Sets: 5
  • Shotgun Split (two-back) Sets: 2
  • Four-Wide Receiver Sets: 3
  • Off-Set I-Formation (Burger as FB) 1

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