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Football: Miscues hurt Notre Dame in loss at Pittsburgh

Notre Dame v Pittsburgh

Notre Dame v Pittsburgh

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Updated: December 11, 2013 6:56AM



PITTSBURGH — Notre Dame had the ball deep in Pittsburgh’s territory early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Tommy Rees rolled to his right and then threw across his body.

Pittsburgh safety Ray Vinopal picked off the pass in the end zone.

The Panthers didn’t take advantage of that fourth-quarter miscue. But they capitalized on another interception later in the quarter.

Vinopal’s second interception set up a 1-yard touchdown run by James Conner and Pittsburgh held on to defeat the Irish 28-21 Saturday at Heinz Field.

“All losses are disappointing losses, but that was especially disappointing in the way that we played (and) coached,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.

The loss is a crucial blow to any hopes Notre Dame had of playing in a BCS bowl game.

“I’m not really concerned about that. What I’m most concerned about is the inability to put together a consistent effort tonight in November, 10 games into the season,” Kelly said. “I take full responsibility for it as the head coach, there’s no reason why we don’t execute at the level we should in November.”

Notre Dame played a majority of the game without defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who was ejected after being flagged for targeting on a run play by quarterback Tom Savage in the second quarter.

“Letter of the law,” Kelly said was the answer he got from the officials for the ruling. “They helmet to helmet contact, they were just deciding the strict interpretation of the rule.”

Kelly said a lack of execution, not Tuitt’s absence, was the difference.

Notre Dame (7-3) took a 21-14 lead on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Rees to TJ Jones with 3:29 to go in the third quarter. Jones had 149 receiving yards and also had a rushing touchdown.

Pittsburgh (5-4) came right back. Savage completed a pass to Devin Street. The wide receiver shook off safety Mathias Farley and went 63 yards for a touchdown.

Notre Dame began the fourth quarter in good shape, reaching Pittsburgh’s 4. That’s when Rees threw the first interception.

Notre Dame actually had an opportunity to recover a fumble in the ensuing Pittsburgh drive, but no one realized the ball was live.

“It was just a lapse, a bunch of inexperience guys out there not seeing that they should have been on the ball,” Kelly said.

Pittsburgh retained possession and eventually punted.

Vinopal then picked Rees off for the second time and returned the ball to Notre Dame’s 5.

“My fault,” Rees said of the interceptions. “A bad decision and a bad throw. I have to be smarter than that. I have to get us out of a play. Those are on me.”

Conner scored the go-ahead touchdown with 9:36 remaining.

“We made mistakes and they didn’t,” Jones said. “We didn’t execute when we needed to.”

The Irish will go into their second bye needing to regroup.

“It’s on everybody,” Kelly said. “To a large degree the execution was very poor.”



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