(Photo Credit: Joseph Weiser)
Notre Dame 58, Pittsburgh 7
Two special teams touchdowns, four interceptions and two touchdowns scored by the defense, another 100-yard rushing game by Audric Estime and Notre Dame dominated Pittsburgh in all phases to beat the Panthers 58-7 on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.
Marcus Freeman said before the start of the game it was important to establish the Fighting Irish run game. Estime capped his day with 114 yards on 19 attempts and three touchdowns.
“I really love the way (they responded),” Freeman said. “I challenged them at halftime. We really weren’t playing to the standard, and they responded.
“I challenged every person in the locker room that we got to come out with a sense of urgency and on fire to perform the way we should. I was pleased the way the entire team came out the second half and really finished drives offensively, defensively, and even special teams.”
Notre Dame’s defense showed why it’s considered a national-caliber defense, despite cornerbacks Benjamin Morrison and Cam Hart being sidelined. Xavier Watts added a pair of interceptions in the first half to push his total for the season to six, which leads all FBS teams.
Jaden Mickey jumped a slant pass thrown by Pittsburgh quarterback Christian Veilleux in the third quarter and ran it 41 yards for the pick-6. True freshman Christian Gray grabbed his first interception for the Irish, after he tipped a high pass then caught it as he fell backward. Ramon Henderson added a defensive score when he recovered a Pittsburgh fumble in the end zone.
Linebacker Marist Liufau and defensive lineman Jordan Botelho both got to Veilleux for a pair of first-half sacks, and Notre Dame held the Panthers to just 255 yards of total offense – 53 yards rushing and 202 yards passing.
Six players scored for Notre Dame, and the Fighting Irish gained 535 yards of total offense against a Pittsburgh defense that had developed a reputation for being good against the run.
Tyree kicked off the scoring for Notre Dame early in the first quarter. Tyree caught a Pittsburgh punt on the Fighting Irish 18-yard line, shook off a couple of Panthers, ran through a couple more Panthers then burst up the middle to run for an 82-yard return touchdown.
Quarterback Sam Hartman struggled early throwing a pair of interceptions in the first half. Despite the two miscues, Hartman completed 18-of-25 passes for 288 yards, including a long pass of 60 yards to Rico Florees, Jr., in the third quarter.
Steve Angeli came on in relief of Hartman in the fourth quarter. Angeli moved the offense, connecting on several passes before contributing Notre Dame’s only touchdown pass of the day, a 19-yard catch and run to tight end Cooper Flanagan. Angeli finished 6-of-7 for 92 yards and a score.
Pittsburgh broke up the shutout attempt at 8:18 of the fourth quarter when quarterback Nate Yarnell threw into tight Notre Dame coverage and found Konata Mumpfield at the goal line for a 25-yard touchdown.
Notre Dame (7-2) travels to Clemson next Saturday to play the Tigers (4-4), who lost 24-17 at North Carolina State Saturday.