The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-2) felt confident heading into their game with the Pittsburgh Panthers (4-4) on Saturday night. The Fighting Irish had won three-straight against Pitt and were 7-2 on the season. However, three Irish turnovers and the inability for the Irish offense to come through in the clutch allowed Pittsburgh to pull off the upset at Heinz Field 28-21.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 7-0 lead behind quarterback Tommy Rees’ 10-yard touchdown pass to Davaris Daniels. Rees looked cold in the first quarter missing on his short to intermediate throws to his wide receivers. However, he did maintain his composure in connecting on deep balls to tight end Ben Koyack and wide receiver T.J. Jones. In the first half, Rees was 5-of-11 for 125 yards and one touchdown in leading the Irish to a 14-7 halftime lead.
The second half saw two lead changes and in the fourth quarter, Rees’ poor decisions hurt his team. Rees threw two key interceptions that allowed the Panthers to take the lead 28-21. Notre Dame would have an opportunity at redemption needing a 77-yard drive to tie the game. However, Notre Dame would march down to the Panthers 38, before turning the ball over on downs and ending their chances at victory.
Notre Dame was handcuffed by their lack of production on third down. The Irish were consistently forced into third-and-long situations by the Panthers’ defense and forced Rees to make plays in the vertical passing game. Rees would finish the game connecting on 18-of-38 passes (47.3 percent) for 318 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Notre Dame lost the turnover battle against Pitt and was a -3 for the game (one fumble, two interceptions). The Irish managed 16 first downs to Pittsburgh’s 28. The Fighting Irish’s lack of offensive production led to Notre Dame losing the time of possession to Pittsburgh 23:27 to 36:33.
The Irish fell to 7-3 on the season as Pittsburgh moved to 5-4.