Pitt's Defense Steps Up

A stout defense usually wins championships, and in Pitt's case it certainly has helped put the Panthers in position for one.

While the Pittsburgh offense came up with a handful of big plays, it was the defense that held the high-powered Fighting Irish down most of the way in a 27-22 win Saturday night at Heinz Field.

The No. 8 Panthers earned a critical non-conference win that should enhance their rankings and BCS bowl standing.

"It feels good, but we definately aren't finished,'' fifth-year senior defensive tackle Gus Mustakas said.

Pitt still must play Nov. 27 at West Virginia and against Cincinnati Dec. 5 at Heinz Field to capture the Big East title and BCS bowl bid that accompanies it. That carrot was there no matter the Notre Dame result, but that didn't hinder the Panthers at all, especially on defense.

The heroes were numerous for Pitt. In the secondary, redshirt freshman safety Jarred Holley picked off a pass by Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen early in the second quarter that ended a drive. He finished the game with three tackles, to go with that pick, and he had solid coverage all night.

"ND is a great offense,'' Holley said. "We practiced well all week, and we were just ready to play today. It was a great day for the defense.''

Redshirt junior defensive end Greg Romeus spent a lot of time in the backfield against Notre Dame, and he also dropped occasionally into coverage. Romeus made an impact either way, along with fellow junior end Jabaal Sheard and fifth-year senior defensive tackle Gus Mustakas. Romeus had a tackle for loss, the forced fumble at the end and a pass breakup. Sheard and Mustakas had sacks.

"We pride ourselves on our play on the D-line and tell ourselves that we're the ones who control the game,'' Romeus said.

And even though the Irish have two monstrous tackles on the offensive line, Pitt certainly got the better of the play in the trenches. Mustakas also had two quarterback hurries, while Sheard had four. Both had two stops behind the line.

"We had to get pressure on them,'' Mustakas said. "With the kind of athletes they have at wide receiver, you can't let Clausen have time.''

Along with the two sacks, Pitt had eight total tackles for the loss and hurried Clausen nine times overall.

"The defense played great,'' head coach Dave Wannstedt said. "To hold Notre Dame to three points in the first half, that doesn't happen too often.''

Pitt also held the Irish to 66 rushing hards and 2.8 yards per attempt.

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