DeShone Kizer threw five touchdown passes, ran for another and No. 5 Notre Dame racked up over 400 yards of offense in a 42-30 victory against Pitt Saturday.
While Notre Dame may have been the favorite, the Panthers felt they left plays on the field that could've changed the course of Saturday's events and maybe even the outcome.
"We had too many opportunities we missed," head coach Pat Narduzzi said. "Whether it's falling on a fumble in the first half or recovering a surprise onside kick, there were opportunities for us."
The Fighting Irish took first possession and needed only three plays to go 75 yards as Kizer hit Will Fuller for a 42-yard score. Notre Dame never trailed from that point.
After the teams traded punts, Pitt broke into the scoring column with a 21-yard field goal and cut Notre Dame's lead to 7-3. The Panthers came no closer.
Notre Dame held Pitt scoreless for the rest of the half to open up a 21-3 halftime lead on the back of two touchdown connections from Kizer to Fuller.
"We lost our leverage," Narduzzi said of the big passing plays yielded. "We gave them an easy post pattern for a touchdown. When you aren't stopping the run it's going to take a little away from your coverage."
Leading tackler Jordan Whitehead played offense for the first time this season and scored Pitt's first touchdown Saturday on a 10-yard run. Kizer answered with another touchdown pass to Fuller.
"Coach was telling me that he's going to run it," Whitehead said of the package to use him on offense. "He was serious about it and I knew he was and when I got my chance I was just trying to make something happen."
Fuller finished with seven receptions for 152 yards and three touchdowns. He capitalized on his size advantage against Pitt cornerback Avonte Maddox, displayed most explicity on a jump ball he caught for a 14-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly wanted his team to exploit isolated matchups when the opportunities arose.
"We felt like the plan going into the game was to get matchups," Kelly said. "If we could get Will matched up one-on-one, we wanted that."
Whitehead scored again from three yards out when he bounced outside after no lanes emerged at the line of scrimmage. Whitehead's second score cut Notre Dame's lead to 28-17.
The Irish scored on their next two drives to open up a 42-17 lead with 5:47 left in the game.
Pitt cut its deficit late with a 51-yard pass from Nate Peterman to Tyler Boyd and Ejuan Price's 32-yard fumble return after Matt Galambos sacked Kizer and jarred the ball loose.
Boyd had only one catch for nine yards in the first half and while Notre Dame's secondary worked on him, there were plays Boyd didn't make by his own admission.
"There was plays where I was open, there was plays where they were doubling," Boyd said. "But we've got to execute no matter who is on the field."
In the first quarter, a near-miss in the end zone shaped the rest of the game in Boyd's opinion.
"We have got to continue to play fast and not start slow," Boyd said. "If we don't start slow in that game, and if I make that catch in the first quarter in the end zone, it might be neck-and-neck."