No. 5 Notre Dame beat Pittsburgh, 30-20, Saturday with the help of 2 Panther fumbles inside the Irish 2-yard line.
Tony Rice and Anthony Johnson ran for first-half touchdowns, and Tony Brooks rushed for 101 yards as the Irish (5-0) overcame 2 touchdown passes by Darnell Dickerson to hand the Panthers (2-3) their third straight loss.
Pitt, which upset the Irish, 30-22, last season, blew an apparent scoring drive on its first possession when freshman Curvin Richards fumbled at the Irish 2. Then, the Panthers appeared ready to take the lead with 58 seconds left in the first half, but a wide-open Dickerson fumbled into the end zone just before crossing the goal line.
With the score tied, 17-17, after the first of 2 field goals by Pitt freshman Scott Kaplan, Notre Dame drove 80 yards in 14 plays, capped by Braxston Banks’ 1-yard run with 34 seconds left in the third quarter. Banks, not expected to play because of a knee injury, set up the score with a 30-yard reception and a 6-yard run on third and 6 from the Pitt 9.
Kaplan kicked a 34-yard field goal on Pitt’s next possession to cut the lead to 23-20, but Mark Green gave the Irish an insurance score on an 8-yard run with 4:32 left.
The 14-play, 64-yard drive was aided by a 15-yard Pittsburgh penalty for too many players on the field during a Notre Dame punt. The penalty gave the Irish the ball at their 47-yard line, and Green scored 9 plays later.
Notre Dame beat Pitt for the first time since the Irish upset then-No. 1 Pitt in 1982 by out-rushing the Panthers, 310-171.
“We gave up 20 points, but we easily could have given up 34, that’s how close it was,” said Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz, whose team plays top-ranked Miami next Saturday. “There were a lot of turning points, but their mistakes helped us. I’m really concerned, because we’re not a good football team right now.”
Rice completed 8 of 14 passes for 97 yards and ran 11 times for 69 yards for the Irish.
Pitt’s Richards, who rushed for 202 yards against Boston College, had 78 in 17 carries.