No. 5 Notre Dame sur­vives up­set bid

Fight­ing Ir­ish rally in 4th to beat Pitt

The Republican Herald - - SPORTS - By JOHN FINERAN

As­so­ci­ated Press SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Wide re­ceiver Miles Boykin had a mes­sage for quar­ter­back Ian Book af­ter the No. 5 Notre Dame re­mained un­beaten Satur­day, com­ing from be­hind and then hold­ing off Pitts­burgh 19- 14 on Satur­day.

“I told him win­ning is fun, but let’s not win like this again,” the 6- foot- 4 Boykin said af­ter he caught the game- win­ning, 35- yard touch­down pass from Book with 5: 43 re­main­ing in the fourth quar­ter.

The Book- to- Boykin com­bi­na­tion is be­gin­ning to etch it­self in Notre Dame lore along with other com­bi­na­tions such as quar­ter­back Terry Han­ratty and wide re­ceiver Jim Sey­mour, the “Fling and Cling” combo that helped Ara Parseghian’s Ir­ish to the 1966 na­tional cham­pi­onship.

Book and Boykin have had mem­o­rable mo­ments be­fore — their 55- yard touch­down with 1: 28 in the Cit­rus Bowl last Jan. 1 pro­vided the Ir­ish with a 21- 17 vic­tory over LSU.

Satur­day’s TD com­ple­tion helped to im­prove the Ir­ish to 7- 0 for the first time since 2012, the year they

went to the BCS ti­tle game for coach Brian Kelly, who was feel­ing a lit­tle bet­ter af­ter the Ir­ish held off the up­set bid by the Pan­thers ( 3- 4).

“Proud of our guys and their grit — they hung in there and found a way to win,” Kelly said. “We were not sharp men­tally, we didn’t ex­e­cute ef­fi­ciently. They weren’t at their best and Pitts­burgh played well. We still found a way.”

Pitt led 14- 12 thanks to a long first- quar­ter touch­down drive and a 99- yard kick­off re­turn by Mau­rice Ffrench to start the sec­ond half.

But the Ir­ish, who were held to 80 yards rush­ing, pre­vailed be­hind Book, who is 4- 0 as a starter since re­plac­ing Bran­don Wim­bush. Book was in­ter­cepted twice, but fin­ished with 264 yards pass­ing. He was 13- of- 14 for 158 yards in the sec­ond half.

“I didn’t even see ( Book) throw it,” Boykin said af­ter fin­ish­ing with four re­cep­tions for 84 yards. “I just saw the ball up there and thought I have to catch up to this. It was a dime. ( Ian’s) a baller. He’s al­ways calm and poised.”

As far as Book is con­cerned, it’s mu­tual ad­mi­ra­tion.

“( Miles is) re­ally rangy, so I just got to put it up there and give him a chance,” Book said. “Day in and day out, he works so hard. I think our chem­istry is start­ing to come along a lit­tle bit.”

Pat Nar­duzzi’s Pan­thers were look­ing to up­set an As­so­ci­ated Press top- five team for the third straight sea­son af­ter knock­ing off No. 3 Clem­son in Death Val­ley dur­ing the 2016 sea­son and No. 2 Mi­ami last Novem­ber in Pitts­burgh.

“I feel bad for our kids in the locker room,” Nar­duzzi said. “I’m dis­ap­pointed for them. They fought their tails off. We were ahead al­most the en­tire game. Some­times you can’t con­trol what you can’t con­trol.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Notre Dame wide re­ceiver Miles Boykin ( 81) makes the gamewin­ning touch­down catch over Pitts­burgh de­fen­sive back Dane Jack­son in the fourth quar­ter of the Ir­ish’s 19- 14 win over Pitt.

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