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Football: Irish pull out scrappy victory

Observer Staff Report | Saturday, October 9, 2010

It wasn’t decisive, it wasn’t smooth, and it certainly wasn’t pretty. But after taking a 14-point lead into halftime, the Irish were able to hold on for a victory, defeating Pittsburgh 23-17.

“They believe they’re going to win,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “That’s starting to change how they go to work every day, how they play the game now, they have the belief that they’re going to win football games. We’re not there yet, believe me. But we’re taking the right steps towards where we want to go as a football team.”

The Irish allowed the Panthers to strike first, but scored three times in less than 15 minutes to take a 17-3 lead into halftime. Junior quarterback Dayne Crist was responsible for both touchdowns, throwing one to junior receiver Michael Floyd for a one-yard score, and then running one in himself from ten yards out.

“We got off to a pretty good start, but as we’ve shown, we are really good at stubbing our toe, whether it be with a penalty or a drop here, but that’s us, so you’re going to have to get used to it, because I’m trying to get used to it,” Kelly said. “We’re a work in progress, we’re going to work hard every week.”

Senior kicker David Ruffer connected on both of his field goal tries, including a 50-yarder in the 3rd quarter, Notre Dame’s longest since 2003. Ruffer extended his streak of consecutive made field goals to start a career to 16.

“Ruffer is doing things right now that not a lot of people, including myself, though he could do,” Kelly said.

It was the Irish defense that came to the rescue in the second half, as the Notre Dame offense was unable to put the ball across the goal line in the last 30 minutes. After Pittsburgh scored a 56-yard touchdown to bring the game within six, Notre Dame held Pittsburgh to seven plays over their last two drives to seal the victory.

“We’re going to keep you out of the end zone,” Kelly said. “I think that’s something that’s developed through this year, through developing an identity on defense. We may bend a little bit here or there, but we’re going to keep you out of the end zone. My job is to help our team win games, find ways to win. I think this is one of those games that you click off and put a W. We found ways to manage the game and win. We need to win games. It’s not a beauty contest yet for us. It’s certainly not that but my job is to get Notre Dame to win football games, and we’re starting to do that.”