Notre Dame said goodbye to any chance of a BCS bowl game after a disappointing loss on the road to Pittsburgh. The Irish seemed to be in control for most of the game before quarterback Tommy Rees threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter that gave Pitt the opportunity to grab a late lead.
According to ESPN Rees accepted some blame for the loss and said, "You can't turn the ball over and I take responsibility for that. You know, when you put your defense in compromising situations like that, it's hard for your defense to make stops.”
Rees finished with 318-yards and two touchdowns.
Notre Dame’s defense performed better than last week against Navy but still couldn’t make the big plays when necessary to secure the win. Whenever Notre Dame scored a touchdown, Pitt was able to match and not let the Irish pull too far ahead. The schools went into the fourth quarter tied at 21 and Pitt took control after Rees’ turnovers.
Notre Dame’s defensive line was almost back to full force with the return of Louis Nix but lost another starter after Stephon Tuitt was ejected for a questionable targeting penalty against the Pittsburgh quarterback. Defending the pass seemed tough for the Irish at times. The defensive backfield has to tighten up their coverage to avoid another loss going forward.
Coach Brian Kelly explained that this was a team loss saying, "It's on everybody. To a large degree, the execution was very poor. Our mantra is you can't start winning until you stop losing and we did things tonight that caused losing."
Notre Dame was pretty effective in the running game. Kelly gave chances to all his running backs and George Atkinson III led the way 57-yards. Even senior wideout TJ Jones ran the ball a few times adding to his exceptional individual performance. Jones had 149-receiving yards with a touchdown and 41-rushing yards with another touchdown. Jones now has seven consecutive games with a touchdown and has been a big bright spot for Notre Dame.
This was a big step back for the Irish. Notre Dame won't be finding themselves in a BCS bowl game but still have a shot at a decent bowl if they can take down Stanford. The Irish will first have to avoid another upset against a solid BYU team. Notre Dame has to take care of the football in these next two games and not let turnovers become a factor.