College Football: Pitt 27, Notre dame 22
PITTSBURGH ó In need of a big win, Charlie Weis and Notre Dame couldn’t turn around a troublesome trend. Pitt keeps winning and winning like it hasn’t done in 27 years, and now the Panthers are one more victory away from a really big bowl.
Jonathan Baldwin made two exceptional catches that allowed No. 8 Pittsburgh to open up an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame rallied behind two touchdowns by Golden Tate, but the Panthers held on for a 27-22 victory Saturday night.
The cries for Weis’ ouster among Irish supporters will surely grow louder after Notre Dame’s second straight loss.
Notre Dame (6-4) trailed 27-9 with 12:44 remaining after Dion Lewis’ 50-yard touchdown run, then had a chance to take the lead on its final possession before Jimmy Clausen fumbled with just over two minutes remaining.
“We got a little scare, but we always have confidence in our defense to make a big stop and they did,” Lewis said.
The Irish followed up a 23-21 loss to Navy with their eighth consecutive loss to a top-10 team ó the longest streak in school history. Weis is 1-10 against ranked teams since 2006, and has the same record (35-25) as former coach Bob Davie and the same winning percentage (.583) as former coach Tyrone Willingham, both of whom were fired.
Pitt relied on big plays by Baldwin and running backs Lewis and Ray Graham to improve to 9-1 for the first time since 1982, Dan Marino’s senior season, and is headed for a Dec. 5 home date against No. 5 Cincinnati that will decide the Big East Conference champion and BCS bowl representative. A Nov. 27 game at rival West Virginia won’t factor into the conference race.
A game the Panthers needed to win for prestige and to remain in the top 10 couldn’t have gone much better for three quarters-plus.
Tate, one of college football’s most dynamic talents, nearly brought the Irish back.
“But when you get down three scores, at the end of the day … ” Weis said.
Tate ended with nine catches for 113 yards in his second 100-yard game against Pitt in as many seasons, though Pitt followed up its 36-33, four-OT win in South Bend last season by outgaining the Irish 429-349.
Called the best player Pitt has faced all season by coach Dave Wannstedt, Tate caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Clausen to cut it to 27-16 with 9:10 remaining.