NOTRE DAME — It took three overtimes, but the Irish finally got the job done against a surprisingly formidable unranked Pitt team, winning 29-26.
Pitt kicker Kevin Harper had a chance to win the game for the 4-5 Panthers in the second overtime after Irish running back Cierre Wood fumbled at the Pitt 1-yard line, but Harper’s kick was deflected wide right at the line of scrimmage.
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson plunged into the endzone from the 1-yard line in the third overtime after setting up first-and-goal on the previous play with a 6-yard scamper up the middle. That play put a difficult and frustrating game for 9-0 Notre Dame in the books.
The game started off well enough for the Irish. Golson led a near-flawless 60-yard opening drive that sputtered with a handful of penalties near the red zone. Kicker Kyle Brindza hit the 37-yard field goal to give Notre Dame the early lead.
Pitt struck back quickly — bolstered by more Notre Dame penalties — and put up a field goal of its own.
At the end of the first quarter, the score was tied at three apiece and the Irish had been flagged for five penalties in 15 minutes.
Pitt continued to dominate through the next two quarters, out-scoring Notre Dame 17-3 and leading 20-6 heading into the fourth quarter.
With 15 minutes to salvage their hopes at a title, the Irish put together an 11-play, 71-yard touchdown drive capped with an 11-yard pass from Golson to TJ Jones. Kicker Kyle Brindza missed the extra point attempt.
The Irish defense forced a punt that bounced to the Notre Dame 2-yard line. Golson was in the midst of putting together an heroic 98-yard drive when he threw an interception in the end zone.
The Notre Dame defense refused to go down without a fight and forced Pitt to punt just 56 seconds after taking possession.
Golson needed just two plays and 51 seconds to find Theo Riddick in the end zone. Golson then dashed in a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 20 with 2:11 left. After trading field goals in the first overtime, Pitt squandered its chance to win the game in the second and Notre Dame got the winning touchdown in the third with a six-play scoring drive.
Golson finished the game 23 of 42 for 227 yards through the air and two touchdowns to go with an interception. He also had 74 yards and Notre Dame’s only rushing touchdown of the game. Running back Theo Riddick paced the Irish with 85 yards on 22 attempts.
Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham shredded the Notre Dame defense for 172 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries for a healthy 7.2-yards-per-carry average, including a 55-yard run.