Notre Dame football: DeShone Kizer, Fighting Irish top Pitt 42-30

By John Perrotto, The Sports Xchange  |  Updated Nov. 8, 2015 at 9:05 AM
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PITTSBURGH -- The way DeShone Kizer sees it, Notre Dame is in a situation where it can only be successful.

"The game plans our coaches put in week in and week out have been flawless," the sophomore quarterback said. "If we just executive the game plan, we're going to win."

Kizer was nearly flawless Saturday as he threw five touchdowns passes, including three to wide receiver Will Fuller, and ran for another score to lead No. 5 Notre Dame to a 42-30 victory over Pittsburgh.

Some analysts were surprised that Notre Dame (8-1) was ranked so highly when the first College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday.

However, the Fighting Irish convincingly ran their winning streak to four games since their loss, 22-20 at No. 1 Clemson on Oct. 3.

The Fighting Irish, though, say they are not looking to earn style points from the CFP selection committee.

"Win three games," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said when asked what it would take for his team to get into the four-game playoff. "We need to go 1-0 each of the next three weeks.

"I know that sounds like coachspeak, but the only thing we can really control is our effort and being consistent and taking care of what's in front of us."

Kizer completed 19-of-26 passes for 262 yards as he continued to shine since taking over as the starter quarterback after Zaire Malik sustained a season-ending ankle injury in the second game.

Kizer wound up one short of the school record of six touchdown passes set by Brady Quinn in 2005 against Brigham Young.

"Brandon has five guys up front doing a great job in front of him," Kelly said, referring to Notre Dame's offensive line. "He has playmakers all around him and he knows how to get the ball to them.

"He is very mature and has a very good understanding of the offense, but he has also been dropped into a situation where is surrounded by other players who help make him successful."

One of them is Fuller, who had seven receptions for 152 yards. Wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. and running back Scott Adams each had a touchdown catch.

Kizer pushed Notre Dame's lead to 42-17 with a two-yard scoring run with 5:47 remaining.

Adams, a true freshman, rushed for 147 yards on 20 carries as Notre Dame scored at least 30 points for the seventh time in nine games this season.

Adams stepped in when starting running back C.J. Prosise sustained shoulder and neck injuries in the first quarter and did not return.

"Kizer) is going to throw the ball up there and I know it'll hit my hands," Fuller said. "We have a lot of confidence in each other. Really, the whole team has confidence right now."

Pitt (5-3) took its second loss in a row, falling by 12 points after each of its previous six games had been decided by seven points or fewer.

Freshman Jordan Whitehead ran for two touchdowns for Pitt in the first offensive action of his college career, as he lined up at running back in both basic and wildcat formations.

Whitehead leads the Panthers in tackles this season from his strong safety position, including 11 on Saturday.

Quarterback Nate Peterman completed only 12-of-31 passes, although he finished with 223 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Tyler Boyd with 4:44 left.

Pitt defensive end Ejuan Price returned a fumble 32 yards for a touchdown three minutes later to cut the lead to 42-30 but Notre Dame recovered an onside kick and ran out the final 1:40.

Peterman was also Pitt's leading rusher with 60 yards on eight carries.

"We left a lot of plays on the field," Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. "I thought Nate Peterman played a good game, but we had too many dropped passes.

"We had too many opportunities that we missed. We've just got to finish plays."

Notre Dame took a 21-3 halftime lead as Kizer and Fuller connected on scoring plays of 47 in the first quarter and 46 yards in the second, and Hunter had a 12-yard touchdown catch in the second period.

Pitt's only points of the half came on kicker Chris Blewitt's 22-yard field goal in the first quarter.

Whitehead got Pitt to within 11 points twice in the third quarter with his touchdown runs of 10 and three yards.

However, Kizer answered both scores with touchdown passes, connecting with Fuller on a 14-yarder in the third quarter and a five-yarder to Adams with 12 1/2 minutes remaining that put Notre Dame ahead 35-17.

"In the three losses we've played this year, we've played pretty good football teams," said Narduzzi, whose team's other defeats have been to No. 9 Iowa and North Carolina. "Notre Dame may be the best. Notre Dame is a good football team."

NOTES: WR Tyler Boyd, a junior and the ACC receptions leader, was held to three catches for 84 yards but became Pitt's all-time leader in receiving yardage with 3,097, breaking the mark set by Antonio Bryant (1999-2001). ... This was the first time Notre Dame had a noon ET kickoff since 2011 -- also at Pitt. ... Notre Dame hosts Wake Forest next Saturday while Pitt plays at Duke.

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