Pitt-Notre Dame: Panthers drop heartbreaker in 3OT

Jonathan Daniel

Pitt nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in school history, but couldn't finish.

Remember how I said Pitt had nothing to lose against the Irish? They still didn't have anything to lose, but man, does this one hurt.

If I didn't watch the game, but just saw the final box score, I would have considered this a huge win. Pitt, a 16.5 point underdog on the road against the 3rd ranked team in the country, took them to triple overtime. It still is a win and Pitt fans should come away happy with what they saw for about 56 minutes. That was a team who played composed and with intensity. They didn't make mistakes on defense, were efficient on offense, got a huge boost from special teams, and were flat out dominating the number 3 team in the country. That is the kind of team that makes me feel that Paul Chryst will be a great coach for Pitt.

But after the K'Waun Williams interception, Pitt should have iced the game on the ground. So what do they do? Attempt a pass. I'm not saying Pitt would have won the game at that point, but better have the Irish burn their timeouts and get some time off the clock then whatever that drive was. Pitt was also surprisingly running the ball well against one of the top run defenses in the country this season so it's possible that the Panthers could have even run out the clock.

And then there was the fumble in the second OT. All Pitt needed was a FG to win. The moment seemed to have gotten to the Panthers and they missed it. You all know what happened next...

Ray Graham had an outstanding game and is about as back as he'll ever be. The Irish have one the best run defenses in the country, but Graham acted as though he was running against a scout team early on, taking the first play of scrimmage for 55 yards. He ended the day with 172 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. Tino had a fair day himself, going 19/29 for 164 yards and a touchdown. The line for the most part kept Tino upright and quieted Manti T'eo.

The defense had a great performance as well, forcing three Irish turnovers and kept Pitt in it the entire time. The 4th quarter pass interference call is surely one that Pitt fans will bring up for a while. There was absolutely no pass interference at all and would have kept the Panthers lead at 14. But you can't put the loss solely on one bad call because Pitt had numerous other chances to salt this one away and failed to do so.

In the end, Pitt should come away proud, but a little disappointed in how things ended. They certainly had their chances to beat the Irish, but at the very least should hurt the Irish in the eyes of the voters, which could prevent the Irish from playing for a national title which, outside of those in South Bend, nobody in America wants. The best we can ask for going into the next week is that Pitt doesn't suffer an emotional letdown against UConn. This one will sting, but we'll see how well Chryst can get this team to forget about this game and focus on the next one.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics.

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