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Yturralde: Notre Dame showed just what it needed to against Pittsburgh

| Monday, October 26, 2020

Amid an ongoing pandemic and an unsettlingly close encounter with Louisville, this game against the Panthers looks to be a serious momentum shifter for the Irish. I do not think that many people expected Notre Dame to look this good against Pitt. Notre Dame’s battles against the Panthers have been close and hard fought in recent history. I remember sneaking by with a 19-14 home victory just two years ago. That being said, this time, the Irish looked great.

A number of elements, ranging from Ian Book’s superb performance to Notre Dame’s elite options in the passing game, came together to make this game a statement for all of college football to witness.

This week’s AP Polls are sure to be filled with drastic rises and catastrophic drops. After all, Big Ten football is back. Everyone expects the likes of Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan to make a splash in the rankings. With that, this week’s Irish performance in Pittsburgh proves that Notre Dame is far from removed from the playoff contention conversation.

Many people believe that Notre Dame is a regular season team. They claim that the Irish do alright against alright teams and then lose against great teams. Well, the level of play that we saw today at Heinz Field begs to differ. 

Ian book, for the first time in a long time, looked confident. The chemistry between Book and his offensive line was impeccable. Tonight we saw pump fakes, deep throws and reads on more than one option at a time. I think that, from a confidence standpoint, this was Book’s best performance of the season. This game was a step in the right direction towards competing for Notre Dame’s first ever ACC Championship.

Charles LeClaire | USA Today Sports

Irish senior running back Jafar Armstrong carries the ball during Notre Dame’s 45-3 win over Pittsburgh Saturday at Heinz Field.

Complementing Book’s performance were a number of options on the passing front. For starters, the Irish tight ends put on a clinic against the Pitt defense. Especially notable were junior Tommy Tremble and freshman Michael Mayer. These two big bodies helped remind everyone watching why people call Notre Dame “Tight-End U.” Both of these players did the little things right, whether that was blocking or receiving the ball. Their elite performances today will be a much needed confidence booster for a coming series of tough games.

Statement games, like this one, are huge in helping players form their in-game personalities. Tremble, being a junior, played in the shadow of NFL Rookie Cole Kmet during his first two seasons with the Irish. Similarly, this is Mayer’s first season at Notre Dame. He is only now getting a taste of the sweet nectar that is winning college football.

Personally, I was quite skeptical about Notre Dame’s offense heading into this game, mainly because of how much we have been relying on our running game. Don’t get me wrong, Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree have been phenomenal the entire season. It is just that a championship-winning offense does not just run the ball.

This game silenced all of the doubts in my head. It is as if the Notre Dame coaching staff has some sort of master plan. Crazy, right?

Looking ahead to the games that come, it is going to be essential that we learn to integrate both types of offense into our game — running and passing. This game against Pitt showed us what we are capable of. Now, it is a matter of putting the pieces together.

The Irish need to take this momentum and run with it. Both sides of the ball played amazingly in Pittsburgh today. It is important that Notre Dame keeps this going as they head into next week’s game against Georgia Tech. This game comes right before, what I am calling, the three games that will make or break the postseason. After Georgia Tech, the Irish will face off against Clemson, Boston College and North Carolina.

At this level of football, talent and skill are implied. These games are won on the mental front. If Notre Dame keeps operating with a superior mindset and attitude, they can go far in this year’s postseason. Matching up against Pitt was the ideal opportunity for many of the Irish’s pieces to finally click into place. I cannot wait to see how this Notre Dame side, now finely tuned, is going to look next weekend.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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