NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Pitt found itself in a deep hole early today against Notre Dame in its final tune-up before the Panthers begin to play Big East games.
And while the Panthers did an admirable job of digging their way out of the hole and making the game a competitive one -- the bottom line is they came up short, again, falling 23-17 before a packed house at Notre Dame Stadium.
Pitt (2-3) actually took a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter on a 26-yard field goal by Dan Hutchins which capped a 12-play, 68-yard drive but the Panthers settling for the field goal was a bit of a hollow victory because they moved the ball so well only to stall in the redzone.
That would be a theme throughout the first half as Pitt would make two more trips into the redzone only to have to settle for field goal attempts, and worse, came away empty as Hutchins missed the first one, a 27-yard attempt, wide right and holder Andrew Janocko fumbled the snap on the second one.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame's offense had little trouble marching down the field either -- although unlike Pitt, the Irish finished their drives.
Notre Dame (3-3) took a 7-3 lead on a 1-yard pass from Dayne Crist to Michael Floyd with 2:36 to play in the first half and then pushed that lead to 14-3 with 8:25 left in the first half on a 10-yard touchdown run by Crist.
The Panthers Jabaal Sheard actually appeared to have that play stopped but Crist made a great move to make him miss and then ran down the sidelines.
David Ruffner tacked on a 32-yard field goal with 3:22 to play in the second quarter and Notre Dame led 17-3 at the half. Ruffner added a 50-yard field goal early in the third quarter to push the lead to 20-3.
Sunseri then scored on a 4-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to pull Pitt to within 20-10 and, after another field goal by Ruffner, the Panthers pulled to within 23-17 with a 56-yard touchdown pass from Sunseri to Baldwin midway through the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame appeared to seal the game with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Crist to Michael Floyd but it was called back because of offensive pass interference and the Irish had to punt.
Pitt took possession at its on 10 with 4:45 to play but couldn't advance the ball and was forced to punt.
The Panthers defense held one more time and the Panthers took possession at their own 8 with 1:37 to play but failed to advance the ball again and the Irish took possession and killed the clock.
Paul Zeise: email@example.com or 412-263-1720