Pitt Leads Notre Dame At Halftime

Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

Despite a major edge in time of possession, Pitt defense rises to the occasion to keep Irish out of twice. Ray Graham sparking Pitt with 99 yards of offense.

There's still another half to play, but few could have predicted that after the first 30 minutes, Pitt would be up 10-6

The biggest impetus for Pitt's lead, none other than running back Ray Graham. Despite a personal foul penalty against Pitt prior to its first series of the game, Graham broke through the middle for a gain of 55. That run marked the longest allowed by the Notre Dame defense so far.

Graham later scored on a 16-yard run; Pitt's third offensive series of the game. It followed an impressive sequence of play that started with a third down completion to Graham on a screen, that got Pitt into Notre Dame territory. Tino Sunseri then completed back-to-back passes to leading receiver Devin Street. That's when Graham took things into his own hands, breaking a run off the right side, then bowling over Notre Dame safety Matthias Farley on his way to the end zone.

Pitt leads at the halftime despite the Irish possessing the ball for a combined 15:58 in its first two possessions. They could only add a field goals of 27- and 20- from kicker Kyle Brindza. The Panthers saw their fortunes change on that second field goal. Initially, Theo Riddick scored on a 2-yard run. Paul Chryst challenged the ruling on the field, which was overturned. Todd Thomas and Aaron Donald were credited with a stop on the 1. Then, it was linebacker Emanuel Rackard trying to come off the field, coming up with some cramps. Rackard collapsed on his way to the sideline, and was eventually helped off the field. Shane Gordon--whose status was questionable all week--came on the field to place Rackard. On his first play, he broke through the line untouched, dropping Riddick for a loss of four, forcing the Irish to a field goal. This despite a 18-play, 89-yard drive that lasted 9:26.

While Pitt couldn't immediately answer, Gordon's play appears to have been the momentum changer so far. After Pitt punted on the ensuing drive, they held Notre Dame to a three-and-out for the first time. Then, they answered with the Graham touchdown.

Chryst even took a gutsy call with under a minute to play, facing a 4th-and-1 at midfield, he went for it. Strangely, right tackle Matt Rotheram moved over as an eligible receiver at tight end on the left side. J.P. Holtz slid in at Rotheram's right tackle spot. The play called was for a run up the middle by Graham, a play the Irish was ready for.

With one timeout left, the Irish drove to the Pitt 26 but missed. 43-yard field goal.

Graham has 99 of Pitt's 160 yards of total offense. Sunseri has completed 10-of-12 passes for 84 yards, while Joe Trebitz leads the defense with six tackles in his first start.

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