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The Turning Point: Failed Onside Kick

There were several plays that Pitt failed to convert that could have made things different, but a failed surprise onsides was the key.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

You could point to a whole number of plays that went Notre Dame's way in yesterday's 42-30 Pitt loss, so picking a turning point in the game that the Panthers never led was difficult. One thought: A missed opportunity on special teams.

With Jordan Whitehead's second touchdown of the game, Pitt pulled to within 28-17 with about two minutes left in the third quarter. With the defense struggling, Pat Narduzzi tried a surprise onside kick and the Panthers failed to recover. Notre Dame jumped on it and dashed Pitt's hopes several plays later with a touchdown to make it 35-17 and effectively put an end to any thoughts of a win at Heinz Field.

That wasn't the only loose ball that Pitt failed to jump on yesterday. Heck, it wasn't even the only onside kick that they just missed out on in their defeat. Pitt also had more than a couple of dropped passes and a turnover at the Notre Dame one-yard line.

Again, there were any number of key plays. However, recovering the onside kick there gives Pitt even more momentum, excellent field position, and a chance to make it a one-score game in the fourth quarter.

Following Whitehead's athletic and creative second touchdown of the game, the stage was set. Chris Blewitt delivered a solid effort on the onside kick up the middle. It is very hard to tell by the video, but by my count, Blewitt, George Aston, Elijah Zeise, Dennis Briggs, and Jamal Davis all had a shot at the ball. It was chaos and with all those bodies, it is hard to get a grasp on how Pitt missed out on the ball and a ton of momentum. Instead, Notre Dame's Te'Von Coney picked up the loose ball and gave the Irish the ball at the Pitt 48-yard line. Several plays later, Josh Adams made it 35-17 and took the air completely out of the biggest Pitt crowd ever at Heinz Field.

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