Notre Dame survived a scare Saturday and remains a factor in the College Football Playoff hunt.

Here are three takeaways from the fifth-ranked Irish’s 19-14 victory over Pittsburgh at Notre Dame Stadium.

1. Julian Okwara was everywhere.

Okwara caused fits for Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett. The 6-4 1/2, 241-pound defensive end had seven quarterback hurries.

He also had a key tackle in the fourth quarter, stopping Darrin Hall for a 3-yard loss on a third-and-2 pass play. Okwara made six tackles.

“The play that he made on third down tells more about his overall game,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “His ability to drop out of coverage and make a play like that on a running back … he’s a pretty special player.

“He does a lot of things that sometimes don’t show up on the stat sheet, per se, nationally, but he’s one dynamic player.”

Okwara was part of a defense that kept Pitt in check after its first drive. The Panthers had 88 yards on that drive, then 154 the rest of the game.

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2. Special teams played a vital role for both teams.

Notre Dame made some mistakes. An offside penalty while Pitt prepared to punt extended the Panthers’ first possession, and they capitalized with a touchdown. And Pitt’s Maurice French returned the second-half kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.

It wasn’t all good news for the Panthers. They missed field goals of 47 and 36 yards.

And leading late, the Irish weren’t caught sleeping when the Panthers attempted a fake punt. Backup quarterback Jeff George Jr. threw an incomplete pass with 2 minutes, 9 seconds remaining.

“We have a team that we call ‘Magic’ that is set for fake punts and offensive sets,” Kelly said. “It’s a group that is set just for that, so it’s prepared for fakes.”

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3. The Irish passed another test.

After three consecutive blowout victories, Notre Dame showed it is capable of making a fourth-quarter comeback.

“A lot of good things that we can take from it,” Kelly said. “We obviously can’t play like this week-in and week-out and feel like we’re going to win every game. But you’re going to have some of these, and you have to grow from them, and I really like our football team. They will grow from this.”

This article is written by Lamond Pope from Chicago Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to


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