Fighting Irish pound Pitt
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Brian Kelly isn’t ready to start politicking. The Notre Dame coach figures it’s far too early to get caught up in the endless debate of “who’s in, who’s out” of the College Football Playoff.
Still, considering the way the eighth-ranked Irish’s offense is humming at the moment, he might want to get a speech ready just in case.
DeShone Kizer threw for five touchdowns and ran for another as Notre Dame bolstered its CFP resume with a relatively easy 42-30 win over Pitt.
Kizer completed 19 of 26 passes for 262 yards with no turnovers as the Irish (8-1) won their fourth straight. Will Fuller caught seven passes for 157 yards and three scores and Josh Adams ran for 147 yards and hauled in Kizer’s final touchdown pass while filling in after senior C.J. Prosise left in the first quarter with a neck/shoulder/head injury and did not return.
“Just another day at the office, honestly,” Fuller said. “(Kizer) is going to throw the ball up there and I know it’ll hit my hands.”
That’s pretty much all it takes for Fuller to wind up in the end zone. His three scores gave him 12 on the season and 28 for his career, second in school history Michael Floyd’s 37.
“On the sidelines he’s talking about ‘Get me the ball, I can score,”’ Kelly said. “You can see the way he attacks the football out there and the way he runs, he’s a guy that you want to get it to.”
Kizer certainly didn’t waste any time, finding Fuller for a 47-yard strike on the game’s third play. The two later hooked up for a 46-yard score late in the first half and a 14-yard touchdown in the third quarter to halt a surge by the Panthers (6-3).
Notre Dame finished with 435 total yards even with Prosise sitting out the final 45 minutes after slamming into the ground following a 10-yard reception late in the first quarter. Kelly said his team’s leading rusher is “day to day” and it’s too early to tell if Prosise will be ready next week when the Irish host Notre Dame.
Considering the way Adams played, there’s no need for Prosise to hurry. The freshman averaged 7.3 yards per carry and earned the game ball on the same day his quarterback had a hand in all six scores.
Nate Peterman passed for 223 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Pitt, which has lost two straight. Freshman Jordan Whitehead ran for two scores for the Panthers. Tyler Boyd caught three passes for 84 yards to set a school record for career yards receiving but Pitt was never within single digits after Torii Hunter Jr. put the Irish up 14-3 just over two minutes into the second quarter.
“We had too many opportunities we missed,” coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Whether it’s falling on a fumble in the first half or recovering a surprise onside kick, there were opportunities for us. We’ve just got to finish plays.”
The Irish stressed they weren’t going to get caught up in their lofty spot in the CFP, pointing out that being fifth in the first week of November wouldn’t mean a thing if they looked too far down the road. That typically isn’t an issue when Notre Dame plays the Panthers, who seem to play the Irish tight regardless of the circumstances.
Not this time.
Pitt is one of the ACC’s bigger surprises Narduzzi, who has given the program a needed jolt by revamping the defense and giving offensive coordinator Jim Chaney license to go for it whenever or wherever he chooses. The attitude makeover appears in full swing.
The talent makeover, however, will take some time. The Panthers simply weren’t quick enough to keep up with the high-powered Irish. Pitt opted to single cover Fuller for large swaths of the afternoon, and the Irish responded by going to him repeatedly.
Both of his long touchdowns came when he was in single coverage, and his leaping 14-yard score in the second half came despite near perfect coverage from Avonte Maddox.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org
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