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Notre Dame holds off Pitt, 23-17

 NOTRE DAME, Ind.: Pitt saw a second-half rally fall short in a 23-17 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon.

After trailing 20-3 midway through the third quarter, Pitt pulled to within 23-17 with 7:23 to play in the game.The Panthers got the ball back twice in the final 4:45 but went three-and-out on both possessions.

Pitt’s final chance ended when Notre Dame defensive back Gary Gray knocked away a pass from Sunseri intended for Jon Baldwin on a fourth-and-4 from the 13 with 1:07 to play.

Notre Dame (3-3) took over and ran out the clock to defeat Pitt at Notre Dame Stadium for the first time in three tries dating to 2002.

Pitt (2-3) will open Big East play next Saturday at Syracuse

Tino Sunseri completed 27 of 39 pass attempts for 272 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Dion Lewis had 13 carries for 63 yards and Ray Graham added eight carries for 44 yards. Baldwin had nine receptions for 111 yards and a 56-yard touchdown catch midway through the fourth quarter to pull Pitt to within 23-17.

Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist completed 24 of 39 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown.

Trailing 20-3 midway through the third quarter, Pitt pulled to within 23-17 on a 10-yard touchdown run by Sunseri and, after a Notre Dame field goal, a 56-yard touchdown pass from Sunseri to Jon Baldwin with 7:23 to play in the game.

The Fighting Irish took over at their own 25 and appeared to score again on a 44-yard pass to Michael Floyd, but the touchdown was nullified when Theo Riddick was called for offensive pass interference after setting an illegal pick and Notre Dame was forced to punt.

Pitt took over at its own 10 with 4:45 play, but the Panthers gained five yards on three plays and punted to Notre Dame. The Pitt defense held again, and the Panthers took over at their own 7 with 1:37 left. But after a pair of incompletions and 6-yard gain, Sunseri’s pass to Baldwin was knocked away.

Pitt wasted multiple early chances in the first half and trailed Notre Dame 17-3 at halftime. Despite outgaining Notre Dame, 188-178, in total yardage in the first two quarters and putting together drives to the drove to the Irish 9, 10 and 19 yard-lines, the  Panthers had only one field goal to show for it.

One drive ended when Hutchins missed a 27-yard field goal wide right and another came up empty when Andrew Janocko bobbled the snap on a 36-yard field goal attempt.

After Pitt took a 3-0 lead on its opening possession, Notre Dame answered with 17 consecutive first-half points. Crist completed a 1-yard touchdown to Michael Floyd and ran for a 10-yard score. Ruffner added a 32-yard field goal for a 17-3 halftime lead.

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