Instant Reaction: Irish Fall to Pitt 28-21

Justin K. Aller

Turnovers, sloppy play, and big momentum swings send Notre Dame to its 3rd loss of 2013.

The summary spells it out perfectly.

Notre Dame had some good moments on Saturday night and even out-gained Pitt by nearly 100 yards but really didn't do much to win the game.

The teams traded punts early on before Kyle Brindza missed a 55-yard field goal---a boot that would have been a school record had it been made. The Irish then forced a 3 & out and marched 83-yards for a touchdown to DaVaris Daniels---his first since the Purdue game FWIW---and Notre Dame appeared on track.

The rest of the game the Irish really fought to grab any momentum.

The teams traded punts yet again but this time it was Pitt that marched down field and scored the touchdown. But it wasn't without controversy. Stephon Tuitt was flagged for a 15-yard targeting penalty and thrown out of the game, leaving the already depleted Irish front seven without possibly its best player.

To make matters worse, Rees connected with TJ Jones on the next series but Jones fumbled at the 6-yard line. Within a few minutes of play the air was completely taken out of the Notre Dame team.

Jones redeemed himself with a nice punt return and a 1-yard run on the next Irish series to take the lead which they would take into halftime.

The spectators were welcomed by more trading of punts in the second half but a crucial series by Pitt tied the game. Going for it on 4th and 4 the Irish were flagged for pass interference and the Panther drive continued. They'd punch it in from the 2 to even the game.

ND quickly rallied on the next series with a beautiful 80-yard touchdown pass from Rees to Jones on the first snap.

From there, everything fell apart for Notre Dame.

Pitt's quarterback Tom Savage found Devin Street across the middle and Matthias Farley badly missed a tackle leading to a 63-yard score. As soon as Notre Dame grabbed the lead, it was gone again. They'd never have it back in the game.

Notre Dame did move the ball down to the Pitt 4-yard line but a brutal and unforgivable interception by Rees in the end zone killed that drive. To make matters worse, Prince Shembo sacked Savage, caused a fumble, but a clueless Sheldon Day didn't play to the whistle and gave up on a ball that would have given the Irish possession near mid-field. Notre Dame did get the ball back but Rees threw yet another bad interception---back to back picks---and Pitt returned it inside the 10 where they'd take the lead a couple of plays later.

The end of the game was maddening as the Irish went into full panic mode on offense. In an attempt to tie the game Notre Dame called 13 pass plays to just 1 rushing play and Rees was unable to get the team down field for points.

Game over.

Quick Final Thoughts:

This was a bad loss. There's no way around that. It's a game that Notre Dame should win and a game that they should have won. It's the type of loss that can make you step back and re-assess the situation and especially the coaching.

So let's assess.

This coaching staff is flawed. They are struggling in some areas and really battling to put the right players in the right positions, especially on defense.

But it doesn't mean all hope is lost. Or that we now know Brian Kelly isn't the right coach for Notre Dame. And that's probably what's most frustrating about losses like this. The haters will say "See Kelly isn't a great coach!" and now there's all this doubt about the future of the program.

Taking a step back, it's never as bad as it seems.

Notre Dame lost on the road as a 4.5 point favorite while losing 3 turnovers---two of them just complete gut-shots inside the 5-yard line and another gift wrapped a Pitt touchdown. There will be plenty of room to debate the coaching, the lack of "heart" and all of these things but the truth is this team's ceiling was always 9-3 and with Tommy Rees the cards were always stacked against this team.

That defense tonight that some will think played terribly gave up 356 yards and 4.6 yards per play. There's no doubt that they need to work on some things but given the circumstances that kind of stat line leaves a lot of room for a football team to win a game. Just look down south in College Station where they give up 556 yards to a mediocre Miss State team---doesn't matter when Manziel's the QB and you still win. We're stuck with Rees.

This isn't to throw everything on Rees, but this team was never destined to be great, and we should probably understand that truth.

Like a seasoned golfer might say to an amateur: "You're not good enough to get angry when you don't play well."

That's pretty much Notre Dame Football 2013. We really shouldn't get angry when the team doesn't play like a national power.

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