Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh reaction and highlights: Panthers win stunner in Pittsburgh, 28-21

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt comes away with a big win as the Irish disappoint in their only ACC game of the year.

Notre Dame traveled to Heinz Field for their only game against an ACC opponent this season, and were handed a 28-21 loss by the Pittsburgh Panthers.

The Irish took an early lead on Tommy Rees's 10-yard touchdown pass to DaVaris Daniels, but Pitt tied it up when Tom Savage found Devin Street for a three-yard score. Early in the second quarter, the injured Notre Dame defensive line took another hit, when Stephon Tuitt was ejected for targeting. The Irish took the lead just before halftime when wide receiver T.J. Jones ran it in for a one-yard score.

Pitt tied it back up late in the third quarter on James Conner's two-yard touchdown run, but Notre Dame took the lead once again when Rees found Jones for an 80-yard score. Savage joined in on the long touchdown fun, connecting with Street for a 63-yard score, and Pitt took their first (and final) lead on Conner's one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Anson Whaley of Cardiac Hill noted that while Tuitt's ejection was a bit bizarre and certainly had an impact, it probably wasn't the ultimate difference in the game.

First things first, I didn't agree with the call. Savage's helmet was lowered and I'm not sure Tuitt was trying to make contact with the helmets there. But with the rule as it is, you're going to see plays like that where guys will get ejected. Did Tuitt's ejection make things easier for Pitt? Absolutely. Keep this in mind, though. The offensive line was holding up reasonably before he was lost for the game and Savage had a good amount of protection up until the ejection. That's not to say they could have kept it up since it was early, but the game plan was clear, anyway - Pitt was making quick passes and getting the ball out of Savage's hand earlier.

No reasonable Pitt fan would argue that his loss didn't matter. We all know it did and. But, similarly, to act as if it single-handedly derailed the Irish simply isn't true. That would be Tommy Rees and his two late picks to Ray Vinopal.

Eric Murtaugh of One Foot Down said that while the loss was irrefutably bad for the Irish, fans need to step back and look at the big picture.

This coaching staff is flawed. They are struggling in some areas and really battling to put the right players in the right positions, especially on defense.

But it doesn't mean all hope is lost. Or that we now know Brian Kelly isn't the right coach for Notre Dame. And that's probably what's most frustrating about losses like this. The haters will say "See Kelly isn't a great coach!" and now there's all this doubt about the future of the program.

Taking a step back, it's never as bad as it seems.

Notre Dame lost on the road as a 4.5 point favorite while losing 3 turnovers---two of them just complete gut-shots inside the 5-yard line and another gift wrapped a Pitt touchdown. There will be plenty of room to debate the coaching, the lack of "heart" and all of these things but the truth is this team's ceiling was always 9-3 and with Tommy Rees the cards were always stacked against this team.

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