Notebook: Matthias Farley an 'interesting study' for Notre Dame

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

PITTSBURGH — Matthias Farley keeps playing — even if it’s only for a half.

Because of the first half targeting suspension of senior Elijah Shumate, Farley — Notre Dame’s 5-foot-11, 210-pound graduate student — started at strong safety for Notre Dame on Saturday, racking up a team-high seven tackles and an interception before Shumate relieved him in the third quarter.

It wasn’t always pretty. But then again, for Farley, it rarely is.

“Matthias is an interesting study,” head coach Brian Kelly said after Notre Dame’s 42-30 win over Pittsburgh. “He moved to the middle of the field on the jet sweep (a 37-yard gain by Tyler Boyd), which was a big run, which was a mistake. Then he comes back and makes a terrific play on the interception.

“What I love about Matthias is he just keeps playing. He has one play where you want him to be in better position, and then the next play he makes a great interception.”

The interception was both acrobatic and timely, as Farley leaped to snag the ball in the end zone and preserve a 14-3 second quarter lead. It was the eighth career interception for Farley, a converted wide receiver.

One of five team captains, Farley also reappeared late in the fourth quarter, falling on an onside kick that ultimately sealed the victory.

“On the onside kick, he slips, the ball hits him in the chest but he keeps after the football and he gets it,” Kelly said. “That’s just the kind of kid he is. It never looks sometimes as pretty as you want it, but he’s such a competitor and that’s why you love him on your football team.”

Mutual respect

It's not quite the unstoppable force and immovable object, but when Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd meets Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, something has to give.

Both standouts played their part on Saturday, as Boyd caught three passes for 84 yards and a touchdown and rushed three times for 42 yards, while Smith led the Irish with seven tackles and delivered two punishing hits to Panther quarterback Nate Peterman.

Boyd, who became Pittsburgh's all-time catches leader earlier in his junior season, also set the school record for career receiving yards on Saturday with 3,097 and counting.

Late in the fourth quarter, the two players did meet on the field — though their exchange certainly can't be classified as trash talk.

“It was just showing love, just out of respect," Smith said. "We both respect each other, coming in at the same time as freshmen. It was just a matter of brotherhood.” 

Drawing a crowd

Notre Dame must have a few fans in Pennsylvania.

The 8-1 Irish drew 68,400 fans to watch their victory on Saturday, the most ever for a Pittsburgh game inside Heinz Field. Last weekend, Temple also set an attendance record inside Lincoln Financial Field before falling 24-20 to Notre Dame.

Following back-to-back road games, the Irish return home for their Senior Day game against Wake Forest on Nov. 14.

Okwara stands out

Senior defensive end Romeo Okwara was an unwanted guest in the Pittsburgh backfield on Saturday, finishing with four tackles, two sacks and another quarterback hurry. It was the first multiple-sack effort for a Notre Dame player since Farley notched two sacks against Navy on Nov. 1, 2014.

The 6-4, 270-pound defensive end leads the Irish with six sacks through nine games, a season after he led the team with four sacks.

Newsome bounces back

A week after he averaged just 33.8 yards on four punts in Notre Dame's 24-20 victory over Temple, sophomore punter Tyler Newsome found his form inside Heinz Field on Saturday.

The 6-3, 205-pound special teams ace, who entered the game averaging 42.3 yards per punt, sent three punts further than 50 yards and averaged 51.8 yards per boot in the victory over Pittsburgh.

"I thought it was really big," Kelly said. "Tyler really bounced back after a sub-par performance against Temple. I thought he was outstanding. He flips the field and obviously really puts us in a better situation."

Scouts honor

Representatives from seven NFL teams attended Saturday’s game: Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers, Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers and New York Jets.

Bowling for Irish?

Three bowl games sent scouts to take in Saturday's Pitt-Irish matchup, though ND's victory may have eliminated the Irish from two of them — the Pinstripe and Taxslayer.

The Russell Athletic Bowl, also in attendance, has become ND's most likely landing spot if the Irish fall short of the College Football Playoff, or one of the other New Year's Six Bowls, specifically the Fiesta or Peach.

-Tribune staff writer Eric Hansen contributed to this report

Notre Dame's Cole Luke (36), Matthias Farley (41) and Jaylon Smith (9) take play during the first half at Heinz Field Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Pittsburgh. SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ