Graham continually ran through Notre Dame tackles and the Panthers opened a lead by taking advantage of Irish mistakes.
Graham, one of three Pitt players allowed to play despite facing misdemeanor charges, gave the Panthers a 10-6 lead when he ran past an attempted tackle by Notre Dame safety Matthias Farley and sprinted along the sideline for the score. It was just the second rushing touchdown allowed by the Irish defense this season.
The Panthers were hoping to follow in the footsteps of the 2007 Pitt team, which was 4-7 when it won 13-9 at No. 2 West Virginia on Dec. 1 to knock the Mountaineers out of the national championship game. But this time they just couldn’t find a way to hold on.
All five Notre Dame home games this season have been decided by a touchdown or less, while the four games away from Notre Dame have been decided by an average margin of 28 points.
Kelly had urged his team to play better at home, but they continued to make mistakes. He told the Irish they had to play better against Boston College, Wake Forest and Southern California.
“I told them that they have to understand that everybody they play against will play their absolute best. Next week BC will play out of their minds against us. Wake Forest will. They can’t just highlight certain teams on their schedule because they will play their best,” he said. “I think that’s a lesson learned.”
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o said he was just relieved the Irish won.
“It was ugly at times, beautiful at times. It’s college football,” he said. “I’m just glad the outcome was the way it was.”