Everett Golson threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another… (Michael Conroy / Associated…)
Oh the luck of the Irish.
Fourth-ranked Notre Dame committed three turnovers, came away without a touchdown on four trips inside the 10 yard line, missed a field goal, missed a point-after attempt, trailed by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and still had enough at the end to defeat Pittsburgh, 29-26, in three overtimes Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Irish trailed 20-6 in the fourth quarter, but rallied on a couple of big plays by quarterback Everett Golson – and because of a controversial pass interference call that they converted into a touchdown.
The game-winner came on a quarterback sneak by Everett Golson after a wild second overtime period in which Notre Dame was turned away when running back Cierre Wood fumbled at the goal line, and Pittsburgh missed out when kicker Kevin Harper was wide right on a 33-yard field-goal attempt that would have won the game for the Panthers.
“We were down, things didn’t look great, and we found a way to win,” Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly said after the game in a television interview. “Three overtimes. Good stuff.”
The teams traded field goals in the first overtime period.
Notre Dame improved its record to 9-0 for the first time in nearly 40 years, and the Irish have done it despite not being particularly impressive in home games. Notre Dame’s five victories on its home turf have come by a total of 23 points.
Golson's winning touchdown came after Harper put Pittsburgh in the lead on its possession in the third overtime. His 44-yard field goal was his fourth of the game. His only miss was the kick that would have won it for the Panthers.
Notre Dame outgained Pittsburgh, 522-308, but missed opportunities early – and a big mistake late in the game – nearly cost them.
Notre Dame drove to the Pittsburgh one-yard line on its first two possessions, but was turned away with field goals both times.
Irish kicker Kyle Brindza also missed a 43-yard field goal at the end of the first half and an extra point in the fourth quarter.
Pittsburgh converted the first of Notre Dame’s two turnovers – an intercepted Tommy Rees pass – to a touchdown that gave the Panthers a 20-6 lead midway through the third quarter.
Eric Williams made the interception that gave Pittsburgh the ball at its own 48. Two Tino Sunseri to J.P. Holt passes quickly put the Panthers quickly in the end zone. The first covered 43 yards and the second nine yards for the touchdown.
Pittsburgh, now 4-5 overall (and winner of only one of four Big East Conference games) got a big game running from Ray Graham, who rushed for 172 and a touchdown in 24 carries. But the Panthers couldn’t move the ball enough to run out the clock late in the game.
Notre Dame’s first touchdown came after a highly questionable pass interference call early in the fourth quarter.
On fourth-and-fourth at the Pittsburgh 23, quarterback Golson tried to connect with tight end Tyler Eifert, but the pass was batted away by K’Waun Williams, who appeared to make a nice defensive play.
However, Williams was penalized for pass interference – replays showed he made contact just as the ball arrived – giving Notre Dame a first down at the 11.
On the next play, Golson hooked up with T.J. Jones on a pass that trimmed Pittsburgh's advantage to 20-12.
Williams came back with a big play in the game’s final minutes, making a leaping interception of a pass from Golson, who was trying to connect with tight end Troy Nicklas in the end zone.
The touchback gave Pittsburgh the ball at its own 20 with 3:59 to play and marked the third time Notre Dame had been inside the Panthers’ 10 and came away without a touchdown.
The Notre Dame defense, led by linebacker Manti Te’o, took over from there, completely shutting down any attempt at offense by Pittsburgh in the final minutes of regulation.
Pittsburgh’s possession after the interception lasted four downs – including the punt. Notre Dame took over at midfield and was in the end zone in two plays.
The first play was a 45-yard pass from Golson to DaVaris Daniels, the second was a 5-yard pass from Golson to Theo Riddick for a touchdown.
Golson then successfully scrambled loose and dove into the end zone on a two-point conversion run that tied the score, 20-20, with 2:11 left in regulation.