Players to watch: Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

• Under head coach Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh is 14-5 when it rushes for at least 200 yards. The Panthers are averaging 203.8 yards on the ground this season. Notre Dame has allowed 127.8 yards per game.

• Pitt defensive end Rashad Weaver is tied for the national lead with three fumble recoveries alongside three defensive backs including Notre Dame’s Julian Love. A Pitt defender hasn’t recovered four fumbles in a season since 1981.

• Kicker Alex Kessman has made four of the six longest field goals in Pitt history. He hit field goals from 56 and 55 yards last season. He made kicks from 55 and 54 in last week’s win over Syracuse.

LB TE’VON CONEY

Notre Dame’s tackling machine should feast on a Pitt offense that struggles to throw the ball and relies on its running game. Coney will be able to dedicate himself to tracking down the backfield duo of Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall that combined for 299 yards and three touchdowns against Syracuse. Expect Coney, who is averaging eight tackles per game, to approach double digits in tackles against this one-dimensional offense.

QB IAN BOOK

Pencil Book in for another day with better than a 70 percent completion percentage. Pitt doesn’t rush the passer particularly well — 11 sacks in six games (Notre Dame has 15) — and has been picked apart on third down. Only 15 teams have defended third downs worse than Pitt’s 44.7 percent allowed conversion rate. Book has been incredibly efficient in his three starts by totaling 874 yards and eight touchdowns on 74-of-102 passing (72.5 percent).

RB QADREE OLLISON

The fifth-year running back has appeared to have found a bit of the magic that led to him rushing for 1,121 yards and 11 touchdowns in his redshirt freshman season. After a significant dip in carries and production the last two seasons, Ollison has become Pitt’s workhorse again. He’s turned 92 carries into 596 yards and five touchdowns. Only 17 running backs in the country have totaled more rushing yards than Ollison this season. He’s coming off a season-high 192 rushing yards against Syracuse.

S DAMAR HAMLIN

Notre Dame sent five coaches to watch Hamlin play at Pittsburgh Central Catholic the night before playing against Pitt in November 2015. The recruiting push wasn’t enough to pull Hamlin out of his hometown for college. The Irish staff will reunite with Hamlin on Saturday. He’ll be roaming Pitt’s secondary where he’s totaled a team-high 35 solo tackles this season. He’s also one of five Pitt defenders to record an interception this season.

Notre Dame’s Te'von Coney (4) celebrates making a stop during the Notre Dame-Stanford NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.
Pittsburgh running back Qadree Ollison (30) rushed for 192 yards against Syracuse.