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The Turning Point: Ray Vinopal's First Interception

Ray Vinopal's first interception helped stop the Irish offense.

Ray Vinopal's end zone interception set the stage for the PItt win
Ray Vinopal's end zone interception set the stage for the PItt win
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Last night's Pitt victory over the Irish certainly had the feel of a heavyweight fight with both teams landing staggering blows in the second half. With Pitt trailing 14-7 in the third quarter, the Panthers put together a great drive that tied it up at 14. Notre Dame wasted very little time in answering with an 80-yard bomb from Tommy Rees to TJ Jones. The Panthers got up from that strong punch to land one of their own with a 63-yard catch and run from Tom Savage to Devin Street to electrify the crowd and tie the game again. With the Irish returning the ensuing kickoff to near midfield, the stage was set for the turning point.

Notre Dame rode that momentum swing to cover 50 more yards in seven plays to get to the Pitt 4-yard line. Faced with a second and goal, Tommy Rees faded over to the right side of the field and committed the sin of throwing back across his body to the back of the end zone. Waiting at the back of the end zone was Ray Vinopal who came down with the first of his two interceptions. His second interception may have set up the game-winning touchdown later on in the fourth, but this one was the play that turned the tide.

After a ho-hum first half of football, these two teams gave the crowd at Heinz Field a roller coaster ride of emotions in the third quarter. With every big moment Pitt had, Notre Dame would answer right back. Vinopal's play in the back of the end zone with about 14 minutes left in the game stopped that back and forth momentum swings, kept the score tied and gave the Panthers the ball. We could have went with a number of plays last night, but when this happened, you could feel Pitt fans actually start to believe they would not be denied last night.

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