Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 4, 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM NOV. 4, 2023 19 Similar to what Freeman said with 3 non-offensive touchdowns, amassing 500-plus yards will work against any- one. But the afternoon absolutely still belonged to the other two phases of the game, and that isn't debatable. Senior safety Xavier Watts inter- cepted Pitt quarterback Christian Veil- leux twice. Sophomore cornerback Jaden Mickey, who earned the start be- cause sophomore cornerback Benjamin Morrison was unavailable with a quad strain, had the first pick of his career and returned it for a touchdown. Fresh- man cornerback Christian Gray was in the same boat as Mickey — inserted when Cam Hart was injured in the sec- ond quarter — and also notched his first career interception. Less than two min- utes after Mickey's score, senior safety Ramon Henderson fell on a muffed punt in the end zone for a second Notre Dame special teams touchdown. "Those things are huge in terms of momentum, in terms of winning a foot- ball game," Freeman said. Estimé scored his second and third touchdowns thereafter to make it 51-0 before Pitt, playing with its backup quarterback, finally got on the score- board with 8:18 left in the game. The Notre Dame offense eclipsed 400 total yards for the first time since Sept. 16. For the most part, especially after waking itself up after a shaky start, coordinator Gerad Parker's unit did its job. But when the Irish defense and spe- cial teams are flying to the ball as much as those units were, Parker's crew can take a back seat — as much as Notre Dame fans might not want it to. That is who this Irish team is, and, as much as they can, they're sticking to it. "Coach [Al] Golden talks a lot about, 'We've got to win the turnover margin,'" graduate student defensive back Thomas Harper said. "'We've got to get two-plus.' Whenever we do that, I think we put our team in a great situation to win." FIRST QUARTER NOTRE DAME 7, PITTSBURGH 0 Top moment: When senior wide re- ceiver/punt returner Chris Tyree caught a Pitt punt, he had two Panthers bearing down on him and no blockers. Tyree spun out of one tackling attempt, kept his balance through another and some- how broke two more tackles on his way to an 82-yard touchdown. Feature performer: Tyree also caught a 47-yard pass from Hartman, making a difficult catch in traffic over the deep middle. He finished the quar- ter with 59 yards from scrimmage on 3 touches in addition to his incredible punt return, which gave him 141 all- purpose yards in the quarter. Stats: Notre Dame outgained Pitt 112 to 37 in total yards. The Irish picked up 6 first downs to the Panthers' 1. Items: Graduate student quarterback Sam Hartman completed 9 of 11 pass attempts but threw 2 interceptions … Notre Dame forced 3 punts. SECOND QUARTER NOTRE DAME 17, PITTSBURGH 0 Top moment: On second-and-7 from the Pitt 15-yard line, Notre Dame junior running back Audric Estimé got a vicious — but legal — crack-back block from junior wide receiver Jayden Thomas. That was all Estimé needed to dash in for the second Irish touchdown. Feature performer: One full quar- ter without forcing a turnover was too long for senior Irish safety Xavier Watts. He intercepted Pitt redshirt sophomore quarterback Christian Veilleux twice, Nos. 5 and 6 for Watts this season and Nos. 3 and 4 in the past two games. Stats: Notre Dame gained 7.1 yards per play to Pitt's 4.8. The Irish out- rushed the Panthers 57-16. Items: Pitt redshirt junior kicker Ben Sauls missed a 45-yard field goal at- tempt … Notre Dame graduate student kicker Spencer Shrader made a 23-yard field goal as the first half expired. THIRD QUARTER NOTRE DAME 44, PITTSBURGH 0 Top moment: Pressure from gradu- ate student nickel back Thomas Harper The Fighting Irish defense stifled the Panthers offense, limiting it to 255 total yards and shutting it out for the first 51 minutes of the game. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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