Irish Defense: 4th Quarter

IrishEyes reviews the defense's effort in the fourth quarter as Notre Dame fights to the bitter end.

Below is Part IV of our play-by-play recap of the Notre Dame defensive effort vs. the Panthers.

Click here to review the first three quarters.

Panthers 1st Drive/4th Quarter

After an Notre Dame touchdown (and the ensuing blocked extra point), Pitt took possession at its own 20-yard line with 14:56 remaining in the contest. The Panthers appeared to cement the victory with a 5-play, 80-yard drive (2:12 time of possession) that culminated in a touchdown spring by freshman Dion Lewis. Notre Dame utilized its 4-3 personnel (and Robert Blanton checked in at CB for Gary Gray) with the exception of the drive's second snap. Pitt 27 ND 9

  • QB Bill Stull used playaction to bootleg into the near right side but his comeback route to sophomore Jonathan Baldwin was broken up by cornerback Darrin Walls.
  • On 2nd and 10 Lewis burst between center and right guard for a gain of 12 before being corralled by Blanton and Kyle McCarthy. Brian Smith was crushed by pulling left guard Joe Thomas at the second level while LDE Kapron Lewis-Moore and Harrison Smith were controlled at the point. Freshman Manti Te'o was shielded from the play late as Ian Williams was moved by a double-team on the nose.
  • Lewis' run off left tackle is stopped by a hard-charging Brian Smith who took a perfect pursuit angle to stop Lewis from cutting back down the seam. Both McCarthy and recent sub (for Blanton) Raeshon McNeil cut off Lewis' outside lane while Te'o took too shallow an angle and a hard-charging Ethan Johnson was buried by a trap block in the backfield.
  • After a play-action fake, Stull hit Dickerson on a crossing route in the flat and used a quick stutter-step to get past Te'o for an 10 yards after the catch.
  • On 1st and 10 from the 50-yard line, Lewis appeared to put the nail in the coffin with a fantastic 50-yard touchdown run in which he hit the initial hole with authority; cutback for extra yards; then undressed the last defender, Irish safety Sergio Brown with an open-field cut before outracing Brian Smith and McNeil to the end zone. Ethan Johnson had good initial backfield penetration on the play.

    Lewis would have scored in flag football on the play as well as the Irish barely laid a finger on the under-recruited tailback.

  • Substitutions: Scott Smith at SLB; Raeshon McNeil at CB; Kerry Neal at DE.

Panthers 2nd Drive/4th Quarter

With a 27-16 lead, the Panthers are limited to 9 yards on 3 snaps (1:54 time of possession before punting back to the Irish). The Irish played the series in their base 4-3 defense with Walls and McNeil at CB. Pitt 27 ND 16

  • Lewis is limited to two yards as Harrison Smith fought of Dickerson block to dive at Lewis legs in the gap over left tackle. John Ryan held up at the point while Johnson cut off any inside lane with penetration. Both Brian Smith and Te'o were handled up front.
  • Kyle McCarthy tackled Panthers tight end Nate Byham after a seven-yard gain on a quick arrow throw to the right flat to set up 3rd and 1.
  • Stull missed an open Mike Cruz over the middle for what would have been an easy first down. The Irish bit on play-action to Lewis but Stull missed the receiver (Brian Smith recovered just in time to move near Stull's passing lane). Cruz, as pointed out by the game announcers, probably should have sat in the hole over the middle of the zone. The Panthers punted to Golden Tate who returned the kick 89 yards for a touchdown.
  • Substitutions: Scott Smith on 3rd and short.

Panthers 3rd Drive/4th Quarter

After the Tate PR TD and failed two-point conversion attempt, Pittsburgh took over at its own 31-yard line with 7:16 remaining. The Irish began in the base 4-3 with Scott Smith at SLB and Walls and McNeil still on the corners. The Panthers drove 27 yards on 5 plays before punting back to the Irish, granting Jimmy Clausen one last chance at a miracle comeback. Pitt 27 ND 22

  • Lewis is held to no gain on first down as Lewis-Moore fought off a seal block to slow the freshman and an untouched Brian Smith cleaned up the mess with the tackle in space.
  • Stull found Baldwin for a 19-yard gain and a first down with an in-route as the 6'5" receiver went low to make the grab despite taking a shot from McCarthy on the play. After further review, that ball might have hit the ground, boys and girls…
  • Lewis is stopped for two yards as Brian Smith shoots the gap. Lewis-Moore also got a piece of the action, fighting his way down the line from his LDE spot.
  • After faking a toss right to Lewis, Stull kept the ball on a bootleg left and rolled in a 2-1 situation with Dickerson vs. Harrison Smith. Smith caught up to the speedy target after the catch to limit the play to seven yards (one yard short of the marker). Stull should have probably held the ball longer to make Smith turn and run with Dickerson downfield but it was an excellent effort by Smith (best-case scenario) nonetheless.
  • Stull fumbles the snap on 3rd and 1, setting up 4th and 2 from the ND 42-yard line. The play appeared to be a toss left to Lewis and would have gone for big, big yardage. The Panthers elected to punt back to the Irish.
  • Substitutions: Scott Smith on 3rd down.

Panthers Game-Ending Drive

After Jimmy Clausen's 3rd Down incomplete pass is ruled a fumble by the replay official, the Panthers took over at the ND 28-yard line needing one first down to seal the contest. The Irish employed a 4-3 defense on the drive's two meaningful plays as Pittsburgh picked up a 2nd and 8 1st Down and subsequently killed the clock. Pitt 27 ND 22

  • Lewis is limited to two yards by Sergio Brown who took out the tailback low in run support.
  • Following a Notre Dame timeout, Lewis gained 14 yards on a toss left as Ethan Johnson is buried inside and Ryan is secured on the edge. Ian Williams showed good penetration but was one step behind the speedy Lewis. Te'o took out two lead blockers on the left edge but Brian Smith's angle is too shallow and Lewis finds the edge, then a cutback lane for the first down to officially end Notre Dame's BCS hopes.
  • Pittsburgh takes two knees to end the contest.

Defensive Game Ball: There aren't many options, but Harrison Smith might have played his most impactful game of the season with three tackles near the line/for loss, two 3rd Down tackles short of the marker, and a leaping pass breakup in space (at the line of scrimmage).

Final Score Pittsburgh 27 ND 22


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