Pitt Panthers Football 2012: 5 Keys to Victory over No. 3 Notre Dame
There are five keys that will lead the Pittsburgh Panthers to victory this weekend against the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
If the Panthers can execute on Saturday, they can keep the game close and will have a chance to shock the college football universe.
Let’s take a look at the five ways that Pitt can turn the table on the once-again mighty Notre Dame Fighting Irish:
5. Force Notre Dame’s Everett Golson to Throw
Everett Golson has a 57.5 percent completion rate over seven games this season. So far, he has thrown four TDs against three interceptions.
Golson has been more of a facilitator for the team’s other play makers. He has thrown the ball well enough to keep opposing defenses honest, and provide senior running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick with some breathing room in the backfield.
The Pitt Panthers can be successful if they take away the run and put the pressure on the newly minted quarterback.
4. Win the Turnover Battle
In the Panthers' two best victories this season, they were plus-three against VT and plus-two against Temple in turnover margin. In the team’s first two losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati, the Panthers were minus-two in turnovers.
Notre Dame has had a positive turnover margin for each game except for the Stanford game, which went to overtime. Since Notre Dame plays low-scoring defensive games, an opportune turnover for Pitt could mean the difference.
3. Keep the Score Low
Notre Dame has won four games by seven points or fewer; each of those games had total points scored under 40.
If Pitt’s offense can stay on the field against the vaunted Notre Dame defense and keep its own defense fresh, then the game should be a close, low scoring affair.
2. Give the Stars the Ball
Will Devin Street, Ray Graham and Lafayette Pitts' playing time be reduced as punishment for their recent arrests? Or will these star players be afforded the opportunity to rise to the occasion?
Coach Paul Chryst had a big distraction this week, leading into a game that could be a key building block for his program. We will see how the coach has prepared his team and how much he will rely on the troublesome skill players.
1. Tino Sunseri Must Play a Clean Game
Pitt’s opponents are well aware that senior QB Tino Sunseri has 22 career interceptions heading into the season. Sunseri is also in his third offensive system in four years.
Opposing defenses have stacked the box against Ray Graham and company and have forced the Panthers to pass. Sunseri has responded with a 69 percent completion rate and 13-to-2 TD to Interception ratio so far this season.
If Sunseri can continue his personal success and force Notre Dame to respect the pass, then Pitt can focus on establishing the running game. A balanced Pitt attack could keep the Fighting Irish defense on its heels just enough to spring Pitt to victory.