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CFN Analysis: Another Notre Dame Miracle

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 3, 2012


The CFN Instant Analysis on the Irish's overtime thriller over Pitt.



E-mail Pete Fiutak
Follow us ... @ColFootballNews 

The trick is to keep breathing.

This is what Notre Dame is, and this is what it’s going to be.

Maybe it’s the type of team that can raise its game just that much when it absolutely has to. Whether it’s being ultra-focused in Norman against a loaded Sooner team, or taking advantage of the right breaks at the right time to get by a Pitt team that played its heart out, the Irish simply does what it must, even if it’s not exactly pretty.

Notre Dame might not be the best team in the nation, and it might be well behind in the BCS pecking order, but it’s a win, and in the Bill Parcells mode, you are what your record is.

Fine, so the Irish would probably get stomped by at least four SEC teams, and they would probably get their doors blown off by the speed of Oregon, but when everything seemed to be going wrong, and with Tommy Rees and Everett Golson playing a game of “can you top this?” with miserably thrown interceptions, there’s still a big 0 in the loss column.

From the phantom pass interference call leading to a fourth quarter touchdown, to not being burned by the Cierre Wood fumble in overtime, to being -3 in turnover margin, to the run defense getting rumbled on by Ray Graham, to missing an extra point, to getting a missed Pitt field goal in the second overtime, there were several fortunate moments to go along with the big mistakes and poor play. However, Notre Dame outgained the Panthers 522 yards to 308 and only allowed one third down conversion. The D didn’t allow a touchdown over the final 20 minutes, and Golson showed how his running skills could be all the difference in key moments.

So, for a team that’s living through the miracle season, with all the key breaks at all the key moments, maybe it’ll get the biggest break of all by the end of the season in the BCS rankings. Keep on winning, and the Irish will still be in the game.

The trick is to keep breathing.

Richard Cirminiello

Let the spin begin.

With Election Day upon us, it seems fitting that Notre Dame’s triple-overtime comeback over Pitt can be spun in two distinctly different ways. You’re going to have two camps come out in the next couple of days. In one—those backing the Irish—the chatter will be how this was a championship-caliber win, the kind of rally from which titles are born. Makes sense.

In the other corner, coming from those who aren’t buying what the Golden Domers are selling, will be those suggesting how Notre Dame is vastly overrated. Heck, the Irish darn near lost to a middling Pitt team in South Bend, needing a few late breaks to remain unblemished. And they’ll have a very compelling point.

So which is it? Are the Irish a team of destiny or a flawed one that continues to win ugly with an inconsistent offense? You’re going to hear plenty of support for both arguments, with the top tier of the BCS rankings hanging in the balance.

Notre Dame is going to be on the stump in the coming week and beyond after leaving itself open to criticism with a questionable performance against the Panthers. Choose a side. Prepare an argument. It’s going to become heated over the next few days when the topic is ND.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN

The luck of the Irish strikes again.

Look, nobody is trying to say that Notre Dame is not a very, very good football team, but this is all beginning to feel a little bit like a season of destiny with the way things are unfolding on an almost weekly basis for the Golden Domers.

Let’s retrace this season of remarkable resiliency shall we?

It all started with a last minute field goal at home to what has turned out to be a very bad Purdue team. Okay, there will be a game or two when a team plays down to the level of its competition and has to survive. We’ll excuse that one.

But it hasn’t been just one game game or two.

Fast forward to the game against Stanford. The Irish defense played its heart out. Yes, yes it did. But we all remember the wacky call at the end that denied Stephfan Talyor what looked to be a tying touchdown that would have extended the game in overtime. Who knows what would have happened if the game continued. It’s almost as if an unseen force played a part in the judgement of the replay official. Almost....

Not to be outdone, the very week after the “instant replay” game, Notre Dame needed to comeback against a very game, but far from equally talented BYU team. A three point win was sealed after the Cougars got down to the Irish 31 but were unable to make the one play to either extend or win the ballgame.

And then there’s this week.

This game looked to be in hand for Pitt, a team that has no business playing with the third ranked team in the country. But just when things looked to be vacuum sealed into the win column, the Irish flashed its team of destiny card yet again, somehow forcing overtime on a late game drive complete with a two-point conversion to force OT. Then, unexplainably in the extra-session, PItt yanks a FG that would have won it, and the you knew right then that Touchdown Jesus would be looking down on another win.

It’s another win that we can throw onto the bonfire of improbable wins that continues to burn brighter and brighter. A couple more logs on this baby and the Irish might be roasting more than hot dogs and s’mores.

Now about that game at Southern Cal coming up in a couple of weeks. There’s no way Notre Dame gets by that one right? Right?

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

Pittsburgh placekicker Kevin Harper hit 41- and 44-yard field goals in overtime when his team was in trouble. He hit the second kick, the 44-yarder, following a high snap and a good hold. However, there was a third kick Harper attempted in overtime on a wild Saturday evening in South Bend, Ind. It was the kick that could have won the game for the Panthers, creating a shattering, earthshaking upset reminiscent of Pittsburgh's 13-9 win at West Virginia late in the 2007 regular season.

That was the kick Harper couldn't hit. It was also the kick Pittsburgh had every chance to center, but didn't. It was the kick Pittsburgh dreamed of… and failed to convert.

There's no question that in overtime periods, the team that manages to shut out an opponent when playing defense first enjoys a considerable advantage. However, when that team is playing on the road, the pressure of the moment is carried differently compared to a home game. It was and is entirely understandable to have felt that Notre Dame was done after Cierre Wood's fumble at the Pitt 1 in the second overtime… much as it was logical and reasonable to have pronounced the Irish dead after Everett Golson's end-zone interception just under the four-minute mark of regulation. However, Pittsburgh is not Oregon, and the weight of playing in South Bend is different from the weight that falls upon the shoulders of young men inside their home stadium.

Some Pittsburgh players (not the whole sideline) were celebrating on the sidelines before they had won. Yet, you could see Harper swing his arms vigorously just before his second-overtime kick, revealing the nervousness that subsequently sabotaged his kick. Credit Brian Kelly – who did not coach very well – for allowing Harper to psych himself out instead of "icing" him and giving him time to collect his thoughts. Notre Dame made good use of the get-out-of-jail card (pun not intended after what happened to three of Pitt's players earlier in the week) and did what it's done all season: win.

By Bart Doan
Follow me @Bart_cfn

They going to have enough wine for mass tomorrow after that affair? Just when you thought Dave Wannstedt left Pitt a few years ago, no? And thus, with a little bit of history and a gust of prayer, Notre Dame held off Pitt at home.

This was the most shocking act since the whole fishes and loaves thing back in the day. An important note is, ugly or not, when they fit for rings, no one asks you how you got there. That’s Notre Dame. What made it more inexplicable was how spectacularly PItt lost it. For Chryst sakes, a high snap on a 37 yard field goal goes awry to win it, yet on the ensuing possession, a high snap leads to a 44 yard make.

But somehow you knew Notre Dame would figure it out. It’s been that kind of season for them. It had everything that had become so Notre Dame. A quarterback switch, insanely head scratching throws. Two turnovers in the end zone. Yet none of it mattered.

There are a lot of narratives on Notre Dame. Maybe they don’t have the elite play makers on offense. Maybe their coach is a bit itchy with the trigger finger with quarterbacks. Maybe they just never push the right buttons, but it always works out.

They can’t make an extra point...then they’re nailing near 40 yarders for the tie. Everything about Notre Dame seems impossible this year, but in the spirit of championship teams, ugly, sexy, or otherwise, they do win. In the end, if they keep doing that, it will be all that matters. In a normal sport. But this is college football...

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

It wasn't pretty, but the Irish pulled it out.

And in the long run, that's the only thing that matters.

Yes, tonight's near-miss will likely cost Notre Dame votes in both the human and computer polls, possibly dropping it to fourth in the next BCS standings. However, a loss would have done far worse damage. A defeat against lightly regarded Panthers would not only knock the Irish out of the top ten, and it would have been enough to prevent them from getting back into the picture if all of the undefeated teams were to falter.

On the other hand, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat will keep the Irish's faint hopes of national championship alive. Sure, there are still a lot of things that need to happen for Notre Dame to move into the coveted second slot, but all of the remaining unbeaten teams still face significant road tests. More importantly, the Irish still have a chance to earn style points before the end of the season with a trip to USC to close the season.

Let's be honest: all Notre Dame needs to do for the reason is to win. While they might seem like a long shot to finish in the top two, it's worth noting that the Irish won national championships in both 1966 and 1988 by picking up an impressive road victories over USC in the final week of the regular season.

That ought to test out Mike Mayock’s “team of destiny” theory.