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No Halloween Scare in South Bend: Irish Punish Pitt

By Liam Farrell|Senior Staff Writer|Twitter/X: @LiamFarrell_IT


Via Notre Dame Football


SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Notre Dame absolutely handled Pitt today to improve their record to 7-2 on the season. The offense had no trouble moving the ball deep into Pitt territory, but a pair of Sam Hartman interceptions and a turnover on downs stalled the Irish scoring for much of the first half. The first score of the game came courtesy of Chris Tyree on an 82-yard punt return, the longest in Fighting Irish history since 2009. The defense remained to be a dominant force, as Xavier Watts became the NCAA Division 1 leader in interceptions after tallying two more in today's contest. Also, each backup cornerback, Jaden Mickey and Christian Gray, had an interception, as well. Let's take a closer look on the Irish performance in this one.


Offense

Via Notre Dame Football


Sam Hartman. Hartman continued to see ghosts against this Pat Narduzzi defense. In the 2021 ACC Championship game, Hartman threw 4 interceptions in Wake Forest's 45-21 loss. In this one, Hartman tried to squeeze two balls in tight spots, and both of which resulted in Pitt interceptions. Besides these two bad decisions, Hartman was rather efficient on the day as a whole. He was 18/25 for 288 yards. In the end, Hartman did enough for the Irish to win in this one.


O-Line Play. The Irish Offensive Line did the best they could against constant pressure from the Pitt defense. Everyone on the line did a good job controlling the heavy pressure formation, and won most battles in the run game. This line has experienced some turmoil up the middle, but after the bye week, the offensive line looked impressive in this one.


Receiving Core. While the bye week gave time for banged up wide outs to heal, they were not a factor in this one. Chris Tyree had a great downfield catch, but besides this vertical shot, there wasn't a lot of moving the ball downfield from the wide receivers. It seems as though they just cannot create enough separation for Hartman to throw a 50/50 ball. Rico Flores had a big gain, but had no defender near him, but Tobias Merriweather did beat his defender on a one-on-one matchup.


Audric Estime. Estime controlled the running game today for the Fighting Irish tallying 3 total touchdowns, and rushing for 114 yards. Estime can do it all in terms of pass protection, catching the ball out of the back field, and running between the tackles. He is the number 1 running back on Mel Kiper's draft board for a reason.


Defense

via The Irish Tribune


Battling through Injuries. The Notre Dame defense somewhat started behind the 8-ball in this one. Star cornerback, Benjamin Morrison, was a game time scratch with a quad strain injury, and his fellow standout corner, Cam Hart, had a forearm injury that sidelined him for most of this game. The inexperienced prospects, Jaden Mickey and Christian Gray did a good job filling in their place, and wrapped up the Pitt aerial attack in this one.


Xavier Watts. After the greatest defensive effort in a single game against USC, Xavier Watts almost out did himself in this one. Two first half interceptions had Watts slide into the Division 1 leader in interceptions (6). With so many injuries in the Irish secondary, Watts was the calming presence that stopped Pitt from throwing the ball downfield.


Young Guns. Talk about making the most out of your opportunity. Jaden Mickey, who is extremely young for a sophomore, making his first interception be a memorable one with a 43-yard pick six. Then, on the next series, freshman Christian Gray said, "it's my turn" and had an acrobatic interception along the sideline. Mick Mickens has this Notre Dame secondary looking at an extremely bright future.


Special Teams and Coaching


Marty Biagi. Biagi had big shoes to fill after former Irish special team's coach, Brian Mason, got elevated to the Indianapolis Colts. Biagi threw a great curveball in the USC game with the three man deep kickoff return, and in this one, Chris Tyree made Biagi look like a mastermind with the 82-yard punt return. The Irish also capitalized on a muffed punt as they landed on the ball in the end zone.


Time Management. Marcus Freeman is still learning as a head coach, but his clock management at the end of the 2nd half was a head scratcher. Letting the clock tick all the way down on third down before calling his last timeout left Notre Dame with no time to run another play after the defensive interception. While the drive still ended with points, the time management error could've made a difference in a closer game.

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