Thursday, October 11, 2018

No. 5 Notre Dame looks to stay on a straight path towards the College Football Playoff

Photo Credit: Michael Schroyer- Getty Images

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

In a quest to remain undefeated and remain in the hunt for their first shot at the College Football Playoff, the No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-0) return to South Bend to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers (3-3, 2-1 ACC) on Saturday afternoon.  

“When we talk about Pittsburgh, Pat Narduzzi is somebody that I’m very familiar with as a former Michigan State defensive coordinator. We’ve had many battles with him, and now as the head coach, we know the style of football,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Physical, hard-nosed, run the football. Aggressive defense. We’re going to get that again.”

The Irish compiled 438 yards of total offense en route to a 45-23 victory over the then-No. 24 Hokies. Dexter Williams led Notre Dame with 178 rushing yards and three touchdowns, including a 97-yard touchdown run. Williams’ 97-yard run was the second-longest rushing score in Notre Dame history— Josh Adams had a 98-yard touchdown run against Wake Forest in 2015.

“What we learned, I think, more than anything else, is that we can overcome adversity,” Kelly stated. “We lost some key players, played, went on the road without some key players, and our guys stepped up and played extremely well.”

The Panthers are coming off a strong overtime victory over the Syracuse Orange, who received votes in last week’s Associated Press poll. The trip to South Bend will be the third time this season that Pittsburgh will play a team ranked inside the top 15— Penn State in week two and UCF in week five.  

Kelly is no stranger to the fact that Pittsburgh has upset top teams in each of the past two seasons.

“So a team that certainly wants to come in and each year now they’ve upset a top ranked team - Miami last year, the year before Clemson,” Kelly said. “So certainly a capable football team and one that you have to be able to their physicality, and their will.”

Notre Dame fans were sent into a brief panic earlier this week when rumors surfaced that starting Ian Book would be facing disciplinary actions for cheating on his midterm exams. Those rumors were quickly dispelled and Brian Kelly addressed the situation on Tuesday during his mid-week press conference.

“No, Ian Book will be the starting quarterback on Saturday,” Kelly said.

Pittsburgh’s defense sustained a substantial blow when linebacker and captain Quintin Wirginis underwent season-ending surgery after suffering a non-contact knee injury in practice on Tuesday. Wirginis led the Panther defense in almost every statistical category— tackles, tackles for a loss, sacks and forced fumbles.

Kicker Justin Yoon became the all-time leading scorer in Notre Dame history in the victory over Virginia Tech. Yoon now has 322 points, surpassing former Irish running back Allen Pinkett, whose record of 320 points had stood since 1985.

All-Time Series:

Notre Dame leads the all-time series against Pittsburgh 47-27-1.  In their last meeting, the Irish were victorious by a score of 42-30 on November 7, 2015. At Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame is 20-10 against Pittsburgh, which the last meeting being a 29-26 victory in triple-overtime on November 3, 2012.