Leprechaun Express: Notre Dame Football Update

:: Notre Dame Football: Irish Game Day ::

Another Look: NOTRE DAME WILL NOT BE DENIED, BEATS PITT 23-17
Leprechaun Express: Notre Dame Football Intel Update Oct. 10, 2010

Crist leads offense, scoring - Record-setting Ruffer provides 11 points, margin of victory - Kelly tells team "enjoy the win" after intense effort, then back to work - Irish Defense holds Pitt to 3 points in first half, buckles down to win - Notre Dame wraps up brutal first-half of schedule at 3-3, with 2-game winning streak - Irish Punter Ben Turk steps up for Notre Dame - Notre Dame Plays to Win - Notre Dame Drives: Notre Dame Seizes Momentum, Perseveres, Brings Home the Win

Notre Dame trailed 3-0 early, led by as much as 20-3 in the third quarter, and overcame a furious Pitt rally to bring home a 23-17 victory.

Crist leads offense, scoring

Notre Dame junior quarterback Dayne Crist went 24 of 39 (62%) for 242 yards passing and a touchdown with no interceptions, and also had a nimble 10-yard touchdown run, accounting for Notre Dame's first 14 points.

In the midst of the game, Crist had 12 consecutive completions. That was a career-best and tied for the third-longest streak in school history.

Consecutive Completions - Game

1 - Ron Powlus vs. Michigan State, Sept. 20, 1997 - 14
1 - Brady Quinn vs. Ohio St., (Fiesta Bowl), Jan. 2, 2006 - 14

3 - Dayne Crist vs. Pittsburgh, Oct. 9, 2010 - 12
3 - Jarious Jackson vs. Navy, Nov. 14, 1998 - 12
3 - Brady Quinn vs. BYU, Oct. 22, 2005 - 12

Record-setting Ruffer provides 11 points, margin of victory

Irish kicker David Ruffer was a perfect 3 of 3 on field goals on the day, including a career-long 50-yarder. With the Irish winning by 6 in the end, Ruffer scored 11 points, 9 on field goals and 2 on PAT's. Ruffer now has made 16-consecutive field goals, the new school record, stretching from 2009.

(The former record-holder with 14 consecutive field goals, Notre Dame sophomore kicker Nick Tausch, is still on the roster, and actually took over kick-off duties against Pitt.)

Ruffer's 50-yarder is tied for being the sixth-longest field goal in Notre Dame history, and is only 3 yards shorter than the longest field goal in Irish history.

(Ruffer's kick is tied for the second-longest field goal in Notre Dame history, 1 yard short of the longest, since the rule change in the early 1990's that took away the two-inch high field goal "tee," a dark rubber block with a lightly treaded surface.)

Longest Field Goals In Notre Dame History

Dave Reeve (Pittsburgh, 1976) - 53
Nicholas Setta (Maryland, 2002) - 51
John Carney (SMU, 1984) - 51
Harry Oliver (Michigan, 1980) - 51
Dave Reeve (Michigan State, 1977) - 51
David Ruffer (Pittsburgh, 2010) - 50
D.J. Fitzpatrick (Syracuse, 2003) 50
Harry Oliver (Georgia, 1980) - 50
Harry Oliver (Navy, 1980) -50

Kelly tells team "Enjoy the win" after intense effort, then back to work

Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly focused on the team's 60 minutes' worth of effort and belief in their ability to pull out wins.

Said Kelly in the post-game press conference, he told the team to enjoy the win after four quarters of hard-playing effort, and then they'd go back to working hard to keep moving forward:

COACH KELLY: I told our football team to get their 60 minutes worth. And I think they got their 60 minutes today. Again, got off to a pretty good start offensively, but as we've shown, we are really good at stubbing our toe, whether it be a penalty here or a drop here. But that's us. So you're going to have to get used to it, because I'm trying to get used to it or it's going to make me look really old real quick. You know, we're a work in progress from an offensive standpoint. We're going to continue to work hard every week. And obviously we'll point out the things we believe we can obviously clean up and get better at. But I just told them, "Enjoy the win." We'll micro manage this and talk about what we could have done and should have done on Monday. Enjoy the victory. It's a good win. Great atmosphere out there today. Our kids played really hard for four quarters. And there's something that they're starting to develop a little bit and that is they believe they're going to win. And that's you know, that's starting to change how they go to work every day. It's how they play the game now. They have a belief that they're going to win football games. We're not there yet, believe me, but we're taking the right steps towards where we want to go as a football team.

Irish defense holds Pitt to 3 points in first half, buckles down to win

Notre Dame gave up 382 yards of offense, but also limited Pitt to 3 first-half points, snagged an interception and a fumble, stuffed a fake punt, limited two national-caliber running backs to 107 yards combined rushing, and stopped Pitt cold on two final possessions in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.

The late defensive stands including tackling the Pitt quarterback in the end zone for what should have two points and the ball from a safety, if not for BIG EAST officiating degenerating into a kind of Keystone Kops spectacle where even the bad version of a missed call should have produced points for Notre Dame, but somehow it did not. The play was a clear safety. A short incomplete pass to nobody, in the midst of an end zone melee, would have also have meant a safety, because intentional grounding in the end zone is a safety. A fumble would have meant a Notre Dame touchdown, since Notre Dame ended up with the ball.

Notre Dame senior safety Harrison Smith had Notre Dame's one (officially recognized) interception, which killed a Pitt drive and set up a Notre Dame score. Harrison Smith also led all tacklers with 11 total tackles.

Notre Dame sophomore linebacker Carlo Calabrese had 9 tackles, and Notre Dame junior linebacker Darius Fleming had 5 total tackles, including a sack for an 8-yard loss.

Noseguard Ian Williams, linebacker Manti Te'o, and safety Gary Gray also each had 5 total tackles.

Seven Irish defenders combined to produce six tackles for loss, including two sacks.

Notre Dame wraps up brutal first-half of schedule at 3-3, with 2-game winning streak

With the victory, the Irish get back to .500 at 3-3 on the year.

They close out a brutal first half of the season that included six tough bowl-quality opponents in a row, three of them nationally ranked.

Said Kelly in the post-game press conference, addressing the tough schedule and efforts to improve:

COACH KELLY: Certainly when you play the competition that we've played it exposes your strengths and weaknesses. You're not covering up everything. All our warts are exposed. We're working on those things. The tougher schedule forces you to do that. Again, I think when we go back and look at the film, we're going to find a lot of things we can do better but they're all coachable things, and that's what we'll continue to do.

The three wins also means Notre Dame effectively is halfway to bowl eligibility, with remaining games that include Western Michigan, Tulsa and Army, interspersed with Navy, national title-contender Utah, and disgraced-but-still-talented Southern Cal.

Irish Punter Ben Turk steps up for Notre Dame

Notre Dame punter Ben Turk had a huge day, with 2 of his 5 punts going longer than 50 yards, and 3 downed inside the 20.

Turk averaged 47.3 yards per punt on the day, 47 yards net. While Turk has shown himself to be a strong punter in the past, he had seen his averages drop a bit in 2010, and was roughly 10 yards over his previous 2010 average.

Ironically, opponent Pitt had been the #1 net punting team in Div. I-A/FBS heading into the game, only for Turk to very nearly match Pitt's own performance numbers in terms of the two team's average yardage on the day.

Notre Dame Plays to Win

The Irish were outgained by Pitt 382-329, but made the plays that counted to lead most of the way and pull out the win.

And after previous weeks with multiple turnovers, Notre Dame won the turnover battle 2-0.

The two longest drives of the year, both leading to first-half touchdowns, were accompanied by a record-setting field goal performance and dynamic defense stands right up to the end.

The noise and atmosphere of Notre Dame Stadium seem to be "going retro," with 80,000 starting to sound almost as loud as the 59,075 used to in the old days, at both ends of the stadium.

Notably heightened crowd noise at the far end was accompanied by dramatic defensive efforts, a Pitt missed field goal, a Pitt interception, a Pitt bobbled field goal snap, and a de facto safety in the far end zone.

Drives: Notre Dame Seizes Momentum, Then Brings Home the Win

After Notre Dame came out flat on both sides of the ball in either team's initial possession, Notre Dame trailed 3-0.

Notre Dame then starting taking command early, similar to their road win over Boston College the previous week.

Crist led a 13-play, 77-yard, nearly 5-minute drive on which Crist went 5 of 6 for 43 yards passing capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass to Notre Dame junior wide receiver Michael Floyd to put Notre Dame up 7-3.

Notre Dame senior running back Armando Allen also had 4 carries for 23 yards on the drive, including a 10-yard gain.

During the drive, Crist hit three receivers, including Floyd, junior tight-end Kyle Rudolph and sophomore wide-receiver Theo Riddick.

Rudolph saw more limited production in the previous two games, albeit including a touchdown catch against Boston College. He seems to be recovering more fully from a hamstring injury and is getting worked back into the receiving production. Rudolph was the third-leading receiver on the day, with 5 catches for 38 yards.

Kelly indicated that the Rudolph situation would be reviewed further in the coming week.

After the Irish score, as Pitt started driving again, the House that Rockne Built started becoming notably louder, including some raucous alumni sections closer to the south end zone to complement the student section and alumni near the north end. The Irish defense started to stiffen and the Pitt kicker missed a field goal.

Still ahead 7-3, Notre Dame drove 80 yards on 15 plays, eating up 6:30 off the clock on their way to another Crist touchdown. On the drive, Crist was 6 of 6 for 49 yards, with passes to Rudolph, Floyd, Riddick, Allen and senior tight end Mike Ragone.

After Allen got the lion's share of rushes on the previous scoring drive, it was sophomore running back Cierre Wood getting six carries on this drive, for 19 yards cumulative.

But after Notre Dame got stuffed at the Pitt 5, then got backed up to the 10 on a penalty, it was Crist who scrambled to the right, then did a nifty, quick-stepping 10-yard run along the right side-line and then cutting back in slightly, for a touchdown on he ground.

Kelly indicated in an interview later that he was impressed, especially, by how Crist stayed with the progression. Crist methodically and quickly worked through his various options until he hit upon the one that was available and ultimately successfull.

Crist's quick thinking and quick feet put the Irish up 14-3 halfway through the second quarter.

With the Notre Dame crowd beginning to build up more of a fever pitch, the Irish defense began exhibiting even more inspired play.

With Notre Dame up 14-3, and the stadium still rocking a bit more like the old days, the defense limited Pitt to a 16-yard drive, culminating in an interception by the Irish defense at the Notre Dame 40. Notre Dame senior safety Harrison Smith, also the leading tackler on the day, snagged the pick and returned it 15 yards to the Pitt 45

Notre Dame quickly seized the opportunity presented by the turnover, as Crist rifled a 37-yard pass to Notre Dame early-enrolling freshman wide receiver T.J. Jones, who made a spectacular diving, fingertip catch at the Pitt 8.

After getting back up to the 15, Notre Dame made good on a 32-yard Ruffer field goal, his second on the day, to go up 17-3 with a little more than 3 minutes left in the half.

Pitt mounted a sustained drive covering more than 50 yards, only to fumble at the Notre Dame 23, recovered by Notre Dame junior defensive end Kapron Lewis-More.

In the second half, the Irish defense held Pitt to 6 yards on their opening possession, and stuffed a Pitt fake punt at the Pitt 34.

The Notre Dame offense capitalized on what was a de factor turnover, with Ruffer hitting his second field goal of the day, a 50-yarder that is among the top-6 longest field goals in Notre Dame history. It is tied for second-longest since the rule change in the early 1990's that took away the two-inch high field goal block that the ball could be held on previously.

The 50-yarder put Notre Dame up 20-3, but Pitt would come roaring back.

Halfway through the third quarter, the Panthers launched a 77-yard, 10-play drive, to get the score up to 20-10.

Notre Dame answered with its own 11-play, 69-yard drive capped by a 31-yard Ruffer field goal, his third of the day, to make it 23-17 early in the fourth quarter.

As mentioned elsewhere, Ruffer set a new Notre Dame record of 16 consecutive field goals made, stretching across two seasons.

But Pitt was not done yet. On the very next drive, after two runs, Pitt uncorked a 56-yard touchdown pass to make it 23-17 halfway through the fourth quarter.

In the closing minutes, Notre Dame had a 16-yard possession, followed by a 5-yard possession for Pitt with the Irish making a stout defensive stand.

Then Notre Dame had a 19-yard possession, followed by yet another stalwart stand by the Irish defense in front of a raucous crowd.

After limiting Pitt to a 6-yard drive, Notre Dame took over on downs at the Pitt 13 and ran out the clock with kneel-downs.

Pitt's final possessions included what was, on the field if not the record-books, Notre Dame stuffing the Pitt quarterback in the end zone for a safety. As mentioned above, there did not seem to be a particular theory of the rules to deny Notre Dame points and allow Pitt to retain the ball. If the quarterback managed to throw the ball away, intentional grounding in the end zone would have meant a safety in itself. And If Pitt fumbled, that would have meant a Notre Dame touchdown.

In any event, Notre Dame was effective and perseverant, inspired at times, and Notre Dame Stadium seems to be coming a but more alive again, prompting both Kelly and Crist to comment upon the great atmosphere for the game.

Resource & News Links

:: VIDEO: Head Coach Brian Kelly recap interview - UND.com
:: NEWSLINK: Crist, Ruffer Pace Irish Past Pittsburgh, 23-17: Dayne Crist ran for a TD and passed for another, while David Ruffer made his 16th straight field goal - a Notre Dame record - AP/UND.com
:: Notre Dame 23 - Pitt 17 - box score/stats - UND.com
:: Notre Dame vs. Pitt - post-game press conference - UND.com
:: Notre Dame vs. Pitt - post-game notes - UND.com

:: Notre Dame 2010 statistical summary/schedule - NCAA database
:: Notre Dame Football official site - UND.com

:: Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh Game Week - UND.com
:: Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh Game Day - ND.edu

:: Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh 2010 Game Notes [PDF]
:: Notre Dame Returns Home As Pittsburgh Comes Calling - UND.com

:: Notre Dame Roster

:: Pitt Football official site
:: Pitt 2010 statistical summary - NCAA database

Keywords: Notre Dame Football, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Notre Dame Depth Chart, Notre Dame Offense, Notre Dame Defense, Notre Dame Special Teams, Brian Kelly, Dayne Crist, David Ruffer, Harrison Smith, Michael Floyd, Ben Turk, University of Notre Dame

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Resource Links
:: Notre Dame vs. Boston College Game Notes [PDF]
:: Notre Dame vs. Boston College Game Week - UND.com

:: Notre Dame 2010 statistical summary - NCAA database
:: Notre Dame Roster
:: Notre Dame Football official site - UND.com

:: Boston College Weather - National Weather Service (NWS providing data for Brookline rather than Chestnut Hill)

:: Boston College statistics - NCAA database
:: Boston College Football official site

:: Notre Dame Football 2010 Media Guide (Table of Contents, PDF sections)
:: Notre Dame Football 2010 Media Guide (Table of Contents, Flash)

:: Notre Dame Weather 46556 - National Weather Service

Irish News Watch
:: A Conversation with Ara Parseghian, Part 1: The Early Years
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