Pitt came up with some big plays on defense in the first half, to get themselves in the game. For the first time all year, Pitt held the turnover edge, 2-0. Unfortunately, penalties at critical points in the game and third down converstion ended up being its downfall, in a 15-12 loss at home to Notre Dame.
Pitt did get some key first-half turnovers. Andrew Taglianetti sacked Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees at the Pitt 25. The fumble was recovered by Greg Williams. Though Pitt took over just outside their own redzone, the Panthers lost five yards on four plays, settling for a 45-yard field goal from Kevin Harper.
Harper added a 23-yarder in the second quarter as well, after Gray's touchdown run. Pitt also had another missed opportunity in the second quarter.Jason Hendricks picked off a Tommy Rees pass at his own two yard-line, ending another Notre Dame drive. On the first play of that drive, Ray Graham rushed for 42 yards. Unfortunately, Pitt got as far as the Notre Dame 33. Tino Sunseri pooch-punted for 33 yards, forcing Notre Dame at the 2.
Notre Dame answered that drive--starting at their own 2, and marching 80 yards on 14 plays. David Ruffer's 39-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half was no good for the Irish, leaving them with a 7-6 lead.
Ray Graham leads Pitt with 62 yards on 11 carries in the first half. Mike Shanahan leads Pitt with 4 catches for 42 yards. Mark Myers made his Pitt debut--punting the ball 46 yards in the first quarter. Trey Anderson took one first half series on offense, misfiring on both passes attempted.
Pitt was able to come back with the help of a 19-play, 80-yard drive to open the second half. The drive almost did not happen. After an incompletion, a sack, a false start penalty and a short run by Ray Graham, the Pitt punt team was brought on. Luckily for Pitt, Notre Dame's Austin Collinsworth was flagged for a personal foul, roughing the kicker. That kept the drive alive, as the Panthers took eight and a half minutes off the clock. The drive was capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Sunseri to Hubie Graham.
Rees then completed 8-of-8 passes on Notre Dame's go-ahead drive, as he completed a 6-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tyler Eifert. It capped an 11-play, 85-yard drive. Rees also completed the two-point converstion to Eifert, which put the Irish up 15-12 with 6:48 to play.
Combined with his performance today, the Pitt defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 41-of-58 passes (70.7%) for 486 yards and five touchdowns in four games this year. In the other three quarters combined, opposing quarterbacks have completed 72-of-125 (57.6%) passes for 729 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions against the Pitt defense.
Pitt finished the game converting 7-of-17 (41.2%) on third downs, though they did force two turnovers while not turning the ball over. What also did them in was five sacks allowed, and nine total penalties—five against offensive linemen—for 55 yards.
Pitt had one last shot at it, following Notre Dame's go-ahead score. They got as far as the Notre Dame 45 before a third down play, where it initially looked like an incompletion, setting up a 4th-and-15 from the Notre Dame 45. After further review of the play, Tino Sunseri's knee was ruled down. Pitt had to convert a 4th-and-26. Sunseri launched a pass over the middle that was tipped by linebacker Carlo Calabrese. The Irish took over at the Pitt 44 with 2:38 left, and ran the clock out.
Stay tuned for more postgame coverage, including Todd Graham's post-game press conference.