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Irish Report Card: Notre Dame 58, Pitt 7

Written by Phil Kowalis|Writer|Twitter/X: @PhilKowalisIT

Photo via 247 Sports


Notre Dame shook off a sluggish first half by scoring 27 points over a nine minute span of the third quarter and the Irish went on to post a dominating 58-7 win over a University of Pittsburgh team that looked dazed and confused for most of the afternoon, and by the end of this one-sided affair wanted nothing more than to pick up their boxed postgame meal and to get on the team bus for the long trip back home. For the second week in a row the Irish scored touchdowns in all three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams, on the way to improving their record to 7-2 on the season. Chris Tyree snapped an eight-year drought without a punt return touchdown for the Irish with a dazzling 82-yard punt return to open the scoring, Jaden Mickey contributed a 42-yard pick six in the third quarter, as the Irish secondary intercepted Pitt quarterback Christian Veilleux four times on the afternoon.

The Notre Dame defense forced five turnovers for the second consecutive week, as it once again turned in a dominate performance.

Let's take a look at this week's grades after the blowout victory over the Panthers.



Photo By: Michael Caterina/AP

Offense:

Offensive Line/Tight Ends: Grade B

The Notre Dame offensive line did an adequate job in both the run game and in pass protection against the Pittsburgh front seven. The Irish offensive line opened the way for Irish rushers to total 155 yards on 33 attempts good for an average of 4.7 yards per carry for the game. The offensive line also allowed only one sack of quarterback Sam Hartman.

Pittsburgh entered the game with 22 sacks on the season and had averaged just over three sacks a game. Irish tight ends had a big day in the pass game totaling eight catches for 99 yards on the day. Mitchell Evans led Irish tight ends with five catches for 66 yards. Freshman Cooper Flanagan made his first catch of the season hauling in a 19-yard pass from Steve Angeli for Notre Dame's final points of the game.


Quarterback/Running Backs: Grade B

Sam Hartman recovered from two first quarter interceptions to complete 18 of 25 passes for 288 yards before being replaced by Steve Angeli with the Irish holding a 44-0 lead in the fourth quarter. Angeli was sharp in his mop up role, completing six of his seven pass attempts for 92 yards and Notre Dame's only passing touchdown of the game. Angeli showed promise, not wasting any opportunity to show the Irish faithful that he may very well be a viable option to man this offense next season.

Audric Estime led the Irish on the ground rushing for 114 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. Jadarian Price added 35 yards on six carries and also had a touchdown for the Irish.

Irish running backs were also active in the pass game totaling five catches for 48 yards. There isn't much else that can be said about this group that hasn't already, as they managed to put together another stellar performance which they will need to carry into Death Valley this week.





Wide Receivers: Grade B

Notre Dame's wide receivers had their most productive day since the matchup with Central Michigan in the fourth game of the season. Irish wide receivers totaled 11 catches for 233 yards six different receivers caught passes in the game.

The Irish were once again able to stretch the field with the pass game, something that had been missing from the Irish offense over the past four games, as Rico Flores Jr,. Tobias Merriweather and Chris Tyree all had catches of more than 40 yards. This should serve as a confidence booster for a group that has struggled during the latter half of the season, and will hopefully prove as a stepping stone toward future success.

Photo By: Michael Caterina/AP

Defense

Defensive Line: Grade B

The Notre Dame defensive line did not have an eye-popping statistical type of day but quietly went about their business of shutting down the Panthers running game as Pittsburgh was held to just 53 rushing yards on the day and a 2.8 yard per carry average. Howard Cross led the defensive line in tackles with two and Jordan Botelho had one of the two Irish sacks of Panther quarterback Christian Veilleux. Although the Panthers entered the game with one of the more abysmal offenses in the ACC, the Irish front held strong and did their job to the degree that was expected.


Linebackers: Grade B

Much like the effort of the defensive line, no one in the Irish linebacking corps had big individual numbers but worked very efficiently as a unit to shut down the Pittsburgh offense.

JD Bertrand led the linebackers in tackles with five and Marist Liufau had a sack. Freshman Drayk Bowen was also credited with a tackle in the fourth quarter, as we got to see a glimpse of what the future of this room holds.


Secondary: Grade A

The Irish secondary was the best defensive unit on the field for a defense that completely dominated the Pittsburgh offense all day long,

Xavier Watts continued his outstanding play by intercepting Veilleux twice in the first half. Watts now has an NCAA leading six interceptions on the season, and four in the last two weeks. Jaden Mickey starting in place of the injured Benjamin Morrison added a 42 yard pick six for the Irish secondary after narrowly missing on two jumped routes earlier in the ball game, and Christian Gray also had an incredibly acrobatic interception for the Irish defense, showcasing why he was one of the more highly-touted defenders in Notre Dame's 2023 recruiting class. Thomas Harper led the secondary with five tackles, two of those being for loss.



Special Teams: Grade A

The Irish return unit had a major impact on the game for the second straight week, as Chris Tyree had a highlight reel 82-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Notre Dame punt return unit also got involved in the scoring fun, as Ramon Henderson recovered a muffed punt in the endzone for a touchdown. Jordan Faison added a 20-yard punt return where he once again showcased his shiftiness to cap a very productive day for the Irish punt return team.

Punter Bryce McFerson placed both of his punt attempts inside the 20-yard line and averaged 38 yards on his two punt attempts.


Summary:

The Irish defense set the tone early forcing three and outs on Pittsburgh's first two offensive possessions and held the Panther's to only 255 yards of offense on the day. The Irish offense recovered from a shaky start to pile up 535 yards in total offense and the Notre Dame special team unit outscored the Panther offense by themselves by scoring two touchdowns on the day. Needless to say, it appears the Irish offense is still having some issues that won't be as easy to recover from if they happen on the road next week against a talented Clemson defense. The Irish take on the Tigers (4-4) who are looking to rebound from their worst record through eight games since 2010.


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