Pitt's late show

Panthers had the answers with game on the line

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When Pitt receiver Devin Street was asked where Pitt's 28-21 upset victory against Notre Dame Saturday ranked in terms of the biggest wins during his five-year career with the Panthers, he didn't hesitate.

"Number one, for sure," Street said. "This is definitely number one."

The victory was significant for a couple of reasons. It gave the Panthers some measure of revenge after last season's disappointing loss to the Irish, and it put them one win away from earning bowl eligibility for the sixth consecutive season.

Perhaps the most notable part of the win, though, was how it happened. For the first time in years, Pitt won a game by making plays in the fourth quarter.

"It was a unique experience out there with the guys," quarterback Tom Savage said. "We all just kind of looked at each other and said 'This is the time. I think it's time to go out there and just answer.' I think we were due."

The Irish appeared to seize all the momentum late in the third quarter when quarterback Tommy Rees hit receiver TJ Jones for an 80-yard touchdown pass just one play after Pitt had tied the score.

Instead, the Panthers answered right back with a 63-yard touchdown pass from Savage to Street three plays later.

The Panthers had opportunities late in losses against Georgia Tech and Navy the past two weeks to pull ahead, but couldn't capitalize. Street said the attitude on the sideline after Notre Dame scored was different Saturday.

"Usually it's down," he said. "Usually guys be quiet and put their heads down, but guys were like, 'Let's go. It's only one play.' We moved on to the next play and we finished."

Even after Pitt pulled ahead, 28-21, thanks largely to two Ray Vinopal interceptions, the Panthers still needed one more stop from their defense, and got it when linebacker Anthony Gonzalez broke up a pass on fourth down to essentially end the game.

"All units did a heck of a job and contributed," coach Paul Chryst said. "I think that's what made this one feel good."

Pitt (5-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) has three games remaining, starting Saturday with North Carolina at home. Any hopes of winning the ACC Coastal Division are gone, but the Panthers still have bowl aspirations to play for.

"We could've gone south, laid down," Street said. "But we're here to win out. We want to win the rest of our games."

Chryst was a little more measured in his long-term approach, but admitted that there were encouraging signs Saturday night.

"We were able to do enough things tonight against a good team to win," he said. "We've got to use that going forward. The kids need to enjoy tonight and come back and get another opportunity next week. We'll save all the 'what's it mean' until we do something with it."

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG

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