Here is a link to post-game quotes from Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt and players, and Notre Dame coaches and players.
*** Where do we begin? With Pitt’s 23-17 loss to Notre Dame a couple of hours in the book – and all of my deadline writing done for the night – where do you stand?
Do you take the positives out of this game and figure the team is getting closer to putting it all together?
The defense was outstanding in the second half. Tino Sunseri had perhaps his best game of the season. Dion Lewis looked better. The offensive line played well. Jon Baldwin had a career-high nine receptions.
*** Or do you wonder aloud about some of the decision-making, play-calling and other miscues that combined to hijack any chance at a victory at Notre Dame. I’m ready to do a little of both, but I can’t get rid of that nagging feeling that maybe Pitt will put together 60 minutes one of these days. Probably after it’s too late.
*** Let’s look at some of the head-scratching decisions by coach Wannstedt and the Panthers’ players. The shoddy field-goal play in the first half; the fake punt in the second quarter; the inexplicable time-out with the clock stopped on fourth down in the fourth quarter; Cam Saddler letting two punts bounce in front of him costing the team field position; calling two up-the-middle running plays down 23-17 from your own 10 and then misfiring on a third-and-5; then trying a middle screen on first down, a deep pass on second down and a 6-yard gain on third down with the game on the line.
*** After the above-mentioned third-and-5 incompletion on the second-to-last possession, Wannstedt called a timeout that needs explanation. He later said they were considering going for it on fourth down if it was fourth-and-4 or less. Then why call the timeout? Fortunately for Wannstedt, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly neutralized Pitt’s foolhardy TO by calling for two pass plays that ended up as incompletions and gave Pitt the ball back with 1:37 to play. Neither coach did a great job of clock management down the stretch.
*** Wannstedt said he couldn’t comment on Saddler’s decision to let the punts bounce until after the coach watches the game film. That’s fine, but Saddler needs to catch those punts, especially the second one with 1:37 to play. It bounced another 5-10 yards and gave Pitt the ball at its own 7. Saddler definitely seems gun-shy about coming up and making a catch since that fumble against Miami. He seems short on confidence right now.
*** Wannstedt called for a fake punt on a fourth-and-3 at the Pitt 35. The play was never developed, as Tyler Tkach, a fifth-year senior, missed his blocking assignment and punter Dan Hutchins was stopped for a 1-yard loss. Four plays later, Dave Ruffer kicked a 50-yard field goal to give Notre Dame a 20-3 lead.
*** The defense held Notre Dame to three-and-out on its first possession, but then the Panthers looked frazzled. They allowed a 13-play, 77-yard touchdown drive and a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on consecutive possessions. While Notre Dame was running to the line of scrimmage after a first down, Pitt was scrambling to get its defensive calls and get lined up.
*** Tino Sunseri said the Pitt players changed their cleats at halftime after having trouble with their traction on Notre Dame Stadium’s natural grass.