What did Notre Dame football do right against Pitt?

I have a feeling someone from Notre Dame football read my last article. Its 45-3 win over Pitt was definitely an eye opener for me. My assumption about the game was quite wrong. I assumed the Panthers would give Notre Dame a run for its money.

Last week, I was having some doubts about the rest of the season for the Irish. They seemed to be lacking momentum and drive. It was hard to watch a team that was ranked so highly but perform at such a mediocre level. As it has not had an impressive showing since South Florida, Notre Dame needed a victory over Pitt. So what did it do that it has not been doing in previous games?

Irish defense dominates

Irish defense was in domination mode on Saturday as it held Pitt to three points. The Panthers were only allowed 162 yards of offense, which ranks up there in record highs for Notre Dame defense. The last time the Irish held a team to a similar amount of offensive yards was in 2015. Taking an even deeper look into Saturday’s stats, Irish defense held Pitt to just over three yards per play. This was undoubtedly the best performance of the year so far. Clark Lea is doing something right.

Conversions and first downs

Notre Dame offense showed improvement. Prior to the game, I considered the offense to be one of the weakest parts of the team. I am here to admit they proved me wrong, or at least for now. I was quite impressed by a variety of aspects on the field, but what I noted were game changers were the ability to convert the ball on third-down opportunities and first down moves.

The Irish were able to convert 11 times, which is a tied record high for Notre Dame football since Brian Kelly has taken the head coach position. Capitalizing on important plays allowed the Irish to take such a large lead. As for first downs, Notre Dame finished with 28, a much higher number than previous games. Compared to the Louisville game, Notre Dame offense seriously upped its performance.

Players of the game

A name that might have been brought to your attention on Saturday was freshman Michael Mayer. The tight end from Kentucky exhibited a lot of potential for Irish offense. Just recently, Mayer had a call with NFL star Rob Gronkowski. Gronk immediately gave him the nickname “Baby Gronk,” which is quite the title to live up to.

Mayer did have an exceptional game. He had a career high, catching five passes for 73 yards. For a freshman, his size and athleticism is something to look forward to.

There might be something special in the Pittsburgh water because Ben Skowronek finally came to win. I have been waiting for the day that the Northwestern transfer made an impact on the field. Skowronek completed two touchdowns in just the first 30 minutes of the game. The first was for 34 yards, while the second one was for a whopping 73 yards.

What I truly enjoyed was to see some type of chemistry between Skowronek and Ian Book. It is something that has not been visible before, as Notre Dame’s offense has struggled to be a complete team. If Pitt is what it took to get the fire going for Notre Dame football, then Irish fans might have to make some thank you cards and send them off to Pittsburgh.

Photo by Notre Dame Athletics | The Observer

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