Saturday’s game in South Bend between Notre Dame (9-0) and the Pittsburgh Panthers played out for the home team like a novel entitled “Tale of Two Notre Dames”.
The first lines could have read “It was the best of Notre Dame. It was the worst of Notre Dame.” Lucky for the Fighting Irish faithful this story ended with a happy 29-26 triple overtime victory, keeping its unbeaten streak alive.
The Panthers seemingly switched uniforms with the Fighting Irish at the start of the game. It was Pittsburgh’s RB Ray Graham (24 carries, 172 yards, 1 TD) rushing for 77 yards and a 13-yard touchdown to give Pitt an early 10-6 second quarter lead.
Coincidentally a player with the last name of Holz, Freshman Panthers TE J.P. Holz (54 yards, 1 TD) to be exact, confused the blue and green by scoring against them on a 9-yard TD from Panthers QB Tino Sunseri (19/ 29, 164 yards, 1 TD) putting the Panthers ahead 17-6 in the third quarter. This marked the first time all season Notre Dame had given up 17 points to an opponent.
The Pittsburgh defense was stout allowing only six points on two field goals through three quarters. Their goal line stance denied Fighting Irish RB Theo Riddick (85 rushing yards) three scoring tries from the Notre Dame 5 yard line.
Just when the Notre Dame Nation thought things could not get any worse for their beloved blue and green, starting QB Everett Golson (23/42, 227 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) was forced out of the game due to a major blow at the end of the third quarter. Backup QB Tommy Rees (6/11, 64 yards, 1 INT), the team’s savior, was called in for Golson to close out. And it was Rees who took the field as he threw an interception midway through the third quarter.
It was now Golson’s chance to be the hero and save the day for a desperate team down by two scores, 20-6 as he reentered the game. Through deft passing the red shirt freshman drove his team deep into Pittsburgh territory on a drive in the fourth. Thanks to some Irish luck pass interference was called against the Panthers on a pass to TE Tyler Eifert (6 receptions, 60 yards). Golson quickly capitalized and threw a touchdown pass to WR TJ Jones (5 receptions, 53 yards 1 TD) on the next play in the back of the endzone to pull the Fighting Irish within 8, 20-12.
On Notre Dame’s next drive Everett showcased his blazing speed and amazing athleticism by rushing for three straight first downs for 27, 35, and 5 yards respectively. This effort was for naught as he ended the drive by throwing an interception into the endzone .
Yet, like any hero, the Notre Dame QB overcame this adversity and became even stronger. At first and 10 on the Notre Dame 50-yard line with under 2:11 remaining in the game, on a critical possibly final Fighting Irish drive, he tossed a bomb to WR Davaris Daniels (7 receptions, 86 yards) for a 45-yard gain.
On the next play Golson’s golden arm found RB Theo Riddick (4 receptions, 35 yards, 1 TD) in the endzone for his second touchdown pass on the day. Needing a two-point play to tie, Golson gallantly and effortlessly found the goal line to tie the game at 20-20 and breathe new life into the team and the quiet stadium.
Golson capped off his extraordinary day in the game’s third overtime. After a RB Cierre Wood botched touchdown attempt in the second overtime the Panthers then missed a 33-yard field goal. Like any hero he took advantage of his enemy’s mistake by driving, and thriving, under the pressure he dashed into the endzone towards a perfect season and BCS berth.
The Notre Dame Defense returned to impressive form after the third quarter yielding only 6 points the rest of the way. LB Manti T’eo played like a human registered eight tackles and two sacks. Stephon Tuitt racked up 1.5 sacks along with 8 tackles and 6 hurries. No sack was greater than than the one Tuitt shared with Louis Nix III for a six yard loss in the third overtime.
Another tome has yet to be written about the team’s fantasy perfect season and national championship. Boston College will try and prevent this story by defeating Notre Dame at home next week at Alumni Stadium.