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Published: Sunday, 11/2/2008

Pitt bounces back, boots Irish in 4 OTs

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Coming off a disappointing loss to Rutgers, Pittsburgh didn't flinch when Notre Dame scored a pair of touchdowns 83 second apart to open a 14-point halftime lead.

Pitt scored on its opening drive after halftime and the Panthers' defense held the Irish to seven yards on 10 plays in the third quarter.

Then the Panthers scored twice in the fourth quarter, tying it each time, before Conor Lee kicked his school-record fifth field goal in the fourth overtime to lead Pitt to a 36-33 victory yesterday.

"I can't describe the heart our football team has," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "They never came unglued. As many adverse things that happened in the game, turnovers and so forth, nobody ever folded, nobody ever lost their poise, lost their confidence."

Although Lee, a senior, is one of the nation's top kickers, the final 22-yard kick was the first game-winning field goal of his career.

"It's something I think every kicker wants to have happen," Lee said.

The Panthers, who haven't been to a bowl since the 2004 season, are now bowl eligible and a victory shy of giving Wannstedt his first winning record in four seasons.

For the Irish (5-3) it was their third loss to teams with winning records this season, leaving the Irish 0-9 against quality opponents since beating No. 19 Penn State 41-17 in the second game of the 2006 season.

"To sum it up, we get in overtime, you don't score touchdowns, you know sooner or later something bad can happen," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said.

Neither team could get into the end zone in OT, and Lee won the kicking contest.

Notre Dame's Walker, who started the season by making just 1-of-7 field goals, made his first four attempts to run his consecutive made field goal streak to seven. But his 38-yard attempt narrowly missed wide left in the fourth overtime, giving Pitt a chance to kick its way to a win.

Weis said he told Walker afterward not to blame himself, telling him: "I could give 50 plays right now that would have made a difference."



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