Notre Dame football: Jones climbing in ND record books

South Bend Tribune

PITTSBURGH -- Earlier this week, it was asked of oft-banged up Notre Dame wide receiver TJ Jones what didn't hurt this week.

"I'm actually pretty good right now," Jones said. "Little bruises right now. Nothing aching."

Which was kind of how the senior's night went - — a bruise that came in the form of a fumble in the red zone, but other than that, pretty good.

In fact, really good.

Jones scored a pair of touchdowns - — one on an 80-yard reception, the other on a one-yard run - — in Notre Dame's 28-21 loss to Pittsburgh Saturday night at Heinz Field.

Jones inched his way up the Irish record books with the 80-yard TD. It was his seventh straight game with a touchdown catch, leaving him one game shy of tying the school record. The touchdown also was the 18th of his career, moving him into seventh place on the school list.

Jones' big night - — he had six catches for 149 yards — was his fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season, which is fourth on the single-season list. And his 149 yards moved him into eighth in career receiving yards.

Jones proved prophetic earlier in the week when discussing the nature of the ND-Pitt series. The previous five games in the series had been decided by an average of four points, with two of the games going into overtimes. Last year's game was a three-overtime affair and the 2008 game needed four extra sessions.

"Just in general it's always a hard-fought game," Jones said. "They take us down to the wire every year."

"It has something to do with the (type of kid they recruit)," Jones said. "But I also think it has to do with it's Pittsburgh-Notre Dame. We're gonna get each team's best effort every week."

Jones' touchdown late in the third quarter gave ND a 21-14 lead, one play after the Panthers had tied the game.

Jones started right, caught a perfectly-thrown pass from Tommy Rees near midfield and veered left toward the Pitt sideline and untouched into the end zone to give the Irish the lead.

Earlier, Jones had given the Irish a 14-7 lead 6:34 before halftime after taking a handoff and sweeping right. He initially looked like he might not have enough room to escape the backfield, but cut upfield to score. Jones also had a 35-yard run in the first half.

The senior helped set up his own touchdown run with a 13-yard punt return, just a few plays after his fumble in the red zone gave the ball to the Panthers. Earlier in the week, Jones discussed the mentality of a punt returner.

"You have to be, in a sense, fearless," Jones said. "You can't worry about getting blasted. You can't worry about if your guys are making their blocks or if they're not making their blocks. You've just got to take chances. You've go to see a window of opportunity, know that it's going to be little, and take a chance." 574-235-6428 Twitter: @BobWienekeNDI

Pittsburgh defensive back Ray Vinopal (9) tackles and strips Notre Dame wide receiver TJ Jones (7) after a catch during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER