Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh: Brian Kelly and Other Postgame Stock Reports

David LutherFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2011

Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh: Brian Kelly and Other Postgame Stock Reports

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    Notre Dame's 15-12 victory over Pittsburgh puts the Irish to 2-2 on the season, while Pitt lets another fourth quarter lead slip away, falling to 2-2.

    Where do we stand now?  Which stocks are on the rise and what stocks are being offloaded at bargain-basement prices?

    Believe it or not, the season is already a quarter over, and it's time to start looking at our options and honestly evaluate our portfolios.

Stock Rising: Brian Kelly

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    It's almost hard to believe, but there were people (mostly who worked for ESPN) who thought Brian Kelly's job was in jeopardy.

    Somehow, Kelly's "demonstrative," "fiery," and "red-in-the-face angry" conduct on the sidelines surprised some people. Those people have obviously never seen Kelly coach a football team.

    When Notre Dame hired Kelly, the administration knew who they were getting.  His sideline "antics" are nothing new for Kelly, and if anyone wishes to argue his style, they need only to look at his record, which now stands at 181-64-2.

    Guiding Notre Dame to another victory, helped by a few gutsy calls on Notre Dame's final drive (including a pass on third down and going for it on fourth down) to burn the clock, may temper some of the supercilious doubt in his abilities as Irish head coach.

Stock Falling: Todd Graham

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    Granted, Todd Graham didn't come to inhabit the head coach's office at Pittsburgh under the best of circumstances.

    He clearly wasn't Pitt's first choice for the job, but it's his job now.

    And after losing two straight games by giving up late leads, there are going to be some questions about Graham's ability as a head coach.

    Although Pitt was clearly overmatched by Notre Dame, the Panthers still found themselves leading in the fourth quarter.  Yet again, like last week at Iowa, Graham was unable to find a way to close out a close game.

Stock Steady: Notre Dame Offense

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    Overall, the offense has improved. The Irish aren't turning the ball over five times a game any more, but two turnovers—in the red zone—are still a major cause for concern.

    It's clear that Tommy Rees is growing up before our very eyes. He's being forces to mature rapidly after he was put into the starting role after Week 1's debacle.

    But there are bound to be growing pains.

    Again, two turnovers is better than five.  But none would be better still—something Pittsburgh was able to manage today.

Stock Steady: Pitt Offense

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    For a Pitt offense that was completely outmatched, Tino Sunseri led a fairly effective attack against the Notre Dame defense today.

    Sunseri was 22-of-30 for 165 yards and one touchdown.

    What hurt Pitt was the spotty run attack (averaging just 2.7 yards per rush), and the fact that all of those completions Sunseri had were short, safe passes (averaging just 7.5 yards per completion).

    Still, the offense wasn't bad, it was just vastly overmatched against a talented and strong Notre Dame defense.

Stock Steady: Notre Dame Defense

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    Notre Dame's defense was able to keep Pitt and Tino Sunseri in check today, but the other side of that statement is that Notre Dame should keep Pitt and Sunseri in check.

    The Fighting Irish were the far superior team on the field, yet Pitt had more than mild success against the Irish, and even took a lead into the fourth quarter.

    Notre Dame's defense was hounded by over-pursuits and arm tackle attempts, which gave Pitt's offense much more daylight than otherwise would have been available. To Pitt's credit, the Panthers took advantage of what Notre Dame gave them, and made few mistakes.

    Still, if Notre Dame wants to be considered an elite team, the defense must play with better mechanics and solid fundamentals.

Stock Rising: Pitt Defense

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    It can be somewhat difficult to evaluate any defense against Notre Dame's offense this season, and the Irish are so prone to shooting themselves in the foot.

    But when Notre Dame wasn't busy worrying about potential disasters of their own making, Pitt's defense was rising to the challenge against a Notre Dame offense that at least has the potential to be very efficient.

    Through much of the game, Pitt was able to keep star wideout Michael Floyd from making a major impact. In fact, Floyd had exactly zero catches in the second and third quarters.

    Pitt was also able to put pressure on Tommy Rees, which forced the young quarterback into a few mistakes—something we tend to see from Rees when things go sour.

    While the Panthers didn't come out on top in this game, it wasn't because of the defense. Holding a team like Notre Dame to 15 points really ought to be enough to win.

    Today, it wasn't. 

Stock Rising: Notre Dame (overall)

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    Today's victory for the Fighting Irish showed that the team is capable of not only winning close games, but mounting a fourth-quarter comeback to do it.

    Notre Dame is now 2-2, with Purdue and Air Force coming up on the schedule.

    While 2-2 isn't exactly where Notre Dame fans were hoping their team would be after four weeks, it looks a lot better than that 0-2 record after two.

    Notre Dame is a good football team—when the Irish aren't hurting themselves. If you take away just half of Notre Dame's turnovers from the first two weeks, Notre Dame is a 4-0 football team with a Top-10 ranking not out of the realm of possibility.

    If Kelly can clean up the missteps (which it seems like he's doing), then Notre Dame has an excellent chance to finish the 2011 season with an impressive record and equally impressive BCS ranking.

Stock Falling: Pitt (overall)

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    Two straight weeks of giving up fourth-quarter leads to lose football games isn't exactly the stuff of which dreams are made.

    Pitt started the season 2-0, but the wins were against Buffalo from the MAC, and FCS Maine—not exactly the best competition one can find. Since then, Pitt has faced two top programs in Iowa and Notre Dame, and against these BCS AQ programs, Pitt is 0-2.

    The Panthers have two options: Pack it in and fold under the pressure or regroup for the Big East opener against a good South Florida team.

    Todd Graham has his work cut out for him as his first year as the head coach at Pitt moves into conference play. There's enough talent at Pitt to be a competitive team. Pitt was, after all, competitive with both Iowa and Notre Dame.

    The area to focus on now is the ability to close out games once Pitt establishes the lead late.