On this night, the game belonged to super wideout Jonathan Baldwin. He did what many outside of Pittsburgh didn't think was possible: upstage Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate:
Until Tate broke loose, Baldwin upstaged Tate and fellow Notre Dame star receiver Michael Floyd. Despite being matched step for step by defender Darrin Walls, Baldwin stretched out all of his 6 feet, 5 inches to catch Bill Stull's perfectly thrown 36-yard touchdown catch late in the second half to make it 10-3. Stull went 15 of 27 for 236 yards and no interceptions.
Baldwin then made an even better grab, a soaring 51-yard grab over Walls -- like him, a former Pittsburgh-area high school star -- to the Irish 29 that led to Dan Hutchins' second field goal, a 38-yarder, and a 13-3 lead. After the Irish punted, Graham ran through half of the Notre Dame defense on a 53-yard run that led to his 2-yard score one play later.
Baldwin made five catches for 142 yards.
Not surprisingly, Baldwin was the one who kept things in perspective:
"We've still got a long way to go, and we've still got to take care of business," Baldwin said.
Baldwin did have some help in freshman running backs Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. Lewis had 152 yards and Ray Graham's Madden-esqe video game run of 50+ yards helped Pitt along the way.
After a questionable fumble call (and it was no doubt, questionable), seems like someone is getting a bit snippy. Can't say it's something that could have completely blame him. Even though Notre Dame would have been staring at a 4th and long after that overturned incomplete pass/fumble, with Pitt's secondary depleted, a conversion wouldn't have been out of the realm of possibility.
Irish fans and apologists should remember that even if the play was an incomplete pass, you could make a strong argument that it should have been called intentional grounding. Intentional grounding would have resulted in a loss of down and Pitt's ball. So really, enough. And while I'm on the subject, the only thing more nonsensical than the incessant whining about the call was the near mass exodus of fans after falling behind 27-9, even while the game was fairly early into the fourth quarter and with a potent offense.
Back in South Bend, Weis' act could be wearing thin on fans:
This time, there was nothing to second-guess, nothing to what-if about, nothing that Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis could spin as pseudo-progress.
What has become a painfully tired refrain now reads like an epitaph.
Another November nosedive, ND's ninth in 12 such games. Another loss to a ranked team, Weis' 12th in 16 games. Another loss to a top 10 team, a school-record eighth straight after Weis won his initial top-10 clash at Michigan in game 2 of his Notre Dame career.
The first half was a defensive struggle for the most part - until Baldwin's touchdown. That showed the first strike against an Irish defense that struggled a bit.
Meanwhile, Pitt's win helped them to move up three spots in the latest BCS poll, while remaining at #8 and #9 in the AP and USA Today polls respectively. An interesting, further analysis shows that the computers aren't sure about Pitt, as they have the second-highest disparity among top ten teams. One computer ranks them as high as 10th while another somehow has them as low as 15th. Whatever.
Looks like I'm not the only one discussing the possibility of Pitt being considered as a national championship contender. As I broke down before, it'd be a long shot. But the fact that it can even realistically be discussed is unfathomable. Make no mistake, Pitt's best chance to sneak into the picture probably went by the wayside this weekend with TCU and Texas winning. But it was nice to think about it.
Dennis Dodd predicts some bowl matchups and mentions the possibility that the Big East runner-up could also make a BCS bowl. Given Pitt's and Cincinnati's history of TV ratings and record of not traveling well, I think this would be a reach.
Nice to have another bye week - more time to soak up the national spotlight in the top ten.