Call it luck, call it destiny, call it whatever you will, but Notre Dame remains in the thick of the BCS title hunt. The Fighting Irish’s 29-26, triple overtime defeat of Pitt kept the team’s national championship hopes alive, extending the best start since the lost time Notre Dame was in this position in 1993.
Brian Kelly showed surprising dedication to Tommy Rees for a stretch on Saturday, and was burned in a fashion similar to how Rees had burned Notre Dame a season ago, with an ill-advised interception. Everett Golson nearly negated his own opportunity to be the hero after returning in relief of Rees, throwing a very 2011 Rees-like interception in the end zone with around five minutes remaining and the Irish trailing 20-12.
By most measures, Notre Dame was outplayed. Golson’s interception should have sewn up an unlikely Panther win, and given Paul Chryst a marquee victory in his first season as Panther head coach. But one metric says the Irish was better — the only one that matters.
Golson did get his shot at redemption, capitalizing on the outstanding play of the Notre Dame defense. Linebacker Manti Te’o was a non-factor, perhaps costing himself valuable Heisman voter clout. The Fighting Irish as a unit was ineffective at forcing turnovers — typically interception prone Tino Sunseri went without an interception. The rush defense also struggled more than at most junctures this season, surrendering 172 yards to talented Panther running back Ray Graham.
But Notre Dame rose up when it most needed to, as it has throughout this season.
Saturday’s win is not one any pundit would call quality. The Panthers were gashed by Youngstown State to start this season, and entered Week 10 4-4 against pedestrian competition. Nevertheless, Notre Dame won the game presented it, as it had the eight prior. Wins are measured differently by computers, and Pitt won’t bolster the Irish’s BCS score. But the Irish also isn’t eliminated from the championship discussion.
Leave the losses to others; whether the result of luck, or steely reserve when it’s most needed, Notre Dame’s ability to find means to victory keeps it afloat in the BCS race.