Instant Observations: No. 3 Notre Dame puts a hurt on Pittsburgh with 45-3 victory

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Quick thoughts on Saturday's runaway game between No. 3 Notre Dame and Pittsburgh...

• That was the most lopsided Atlantic Coast Conference win in Notre Dame history. That history's only four games, but go with it.

• That was 38 unanswered points by the Irish against a defense that was supposed to be good. Thirty-eight.

• In its previous six meetings with Pittsburgh, Notre Dame scored 21 or fewer points four times. The most it had tallied was 42 in 2015. The Irish had 45 — and counting — late in the third quarter.

• Welcome to ACC football, Ben Skowronek. Player of the week honors, anyone? Looks like the Irish found a play-maker at wide receiver, if only for a game.

• Remember when this one was supposed to be a close one for the Irish? They led 28-3 at the break. It didn't even feel that close.

• Fitting that career touchdown pass No. 61 by Ian Book (which tied Tommy Rees for second in school history) on Notre Dame's opening drive went to Skowronek from 34 yards out. Book and Skowronek worked out for two weeks at Book's home in California early in the pandemic. It was Skowronek's first touchdown catch at Notre Dame after arriving as a graduate transfer from Northwestern.

His second was even nicer, high-pointing a deep pass and going 73 yards.

• Can we stop worrying about what Book doesn't do as a traditional quarterback? He's 25-3 as a starter. Let that sink in for a few hours. Or days.

• Much was made earlier in the week about Pittsburgh and its run defense, which was ranked first in the country. Notre Dame may have taken that personally. The Irish limited the Panthers to (-6) yards rushing, and 80 total, their first four possessions, three of which ended with punts.

• Notre Dame allowed Pittsburgh to rush for a grand total of two yards in the first half. TWO!

• Anyone know the whereabouts of buck linebacker Jack Kiser. Anyone?

• Still such a chore to get a starting Irish linebacker as the team's leading tackler. Drew White had the most with two. That has to change, something we've said often the first five weeks of play.

• That Kyren Williams halfback option pass in the second half that fell incomplete .... why? Notre Dame's up 31-3 at that point. Unnecessary.

• Tight end Michael Mayer's a man. Forget any freshman designation. He should be targeted 12 times a game. At minimum. Five catches for 73 yards and a score should be the baseline for him moving forward.

• The Bo Bauer interception late in the second quarter was as easy as they come. Just standing there minding his own business. Only second pick of the year for the Irish. He couldn't NOT catch it.

• Notre Dame had one interception all season coming in, then tallied three picks Saturday. Good to see. Needed to see.

• Had a Joe Wilkins Jr., sighting Saturday....might've been first time for the wide receiver since the season opener against Duke. What's up with that? That's so Notre Dame. Guy does something well one week, then seems to disappear for the next month.

• Hey, look, it's Brendon Clark and Jafar Armstrong.

• It took all of one quarter for ABC's Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge to offer their opinions on the Irish wide receivers. Consensus? They could and should be better. Not a lot of play-makers or difference-makers. About right.

• More from McDonough — "These (Pitt) uniforms are terrible." Yep.

• That second quarter pass interference call on Irish safety Kyle Hamilton might've been the first of his career. He never commits a penalty. It's either a pass breakup or a pick.

• These Irish defensive backs not named Kyle Hamilton ... rough. Safety D.J. Brown looked like he had a sure interception and potential looooong run back on Pittsburgh's first drive, only he never played the ball. He was happier that the Panther receiver didn't make the catch than the possible big play. Gotta pick that and run it back. Every. Time.

• Word arrived from Notre Dame about 90 minutes before kick that one of three players unavailable for Saturday's game (along with CB TaRiq Bracy and OL Josh Lugg) was WR Kevin Austin. Early indications were that Austin suffered another injury to what had been a healed broken left foot. Austin was on the sideline of Heinz Field in a walking boot.

Austin's expected to miss the rest of the season. He has the same injury — a broken fifth metatarsal — that former Irish power forward Bonzie Colson suffered in his left foot his senior season. Colson told the Tribune when it happened that doctors told him a rebreak was likely. Colson then rebroke his foot after missing about eight weeks.

• Saturday was the first of two 3:30 p.m. road games on ABC for Notre Dame. Next up, a visit to Georgia Tech. The game originally was scheduled to be held downtown at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but now will be held at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Grant Field on Tech's midtown campus.

Notre Dame wide receiver Ben Skowronek (11) reacts as he scores a touchdown against Pittsburgh during the first quarter at Heinz Field.