The Irish took care of business in the Steel City, beating Pittsburgh 42-30 on Saturday to continue their collision course toward a make-or-break game at Stanford in late November.
DeShone Kizer stood out again with six total touchdowns, five in the air and one rushing. C.J. Prosise was knocked out of the game with a possible concussion. But, following the same next-man-up theme that has defined Notre Dame's season, freshman Josh Adams stepped in and carried the ball 20 times for 147 yards. That the Irish could turn to a fourth-string QB and still produce a 100-yard rusher speaks to the depth of Coach Brian Kelly's program as well as the effectiveness of his system.
Oh, and Will Fuller had his All-American game going with with seven catches for 152 yards.
The effort wasn’t pristine, however, with the offense continually stalling in the first half. The defense also looked vulnerable, particular during the second half when the Irish looked like they got complacent. Notre Dame gave up a touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter and allowed Pitt to score touchdowns on four out of five second-half possessions. Fortunately for the Irish, Kizer never took his foot off the pedal for the offense.
The Irish can’t keep having these uneven performances if they want to win against good teams like Clemson, Stanford or Alabama. They should be good to reach 10 wins with games against Wake Forest and Boston College, but that 11th win against Stanford is what will be decisive as to whether Notre Dame reaches the playoffs.
The College Football Playoff committee currently has them in the bracket as the No. 4 seed. Win out, and that isn't likely to change. Up next is Wake Forest.