SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly's baby, his spread offense, clicked for a half. Notre Dame's no-huddle was snapping off plays so rapidly, Pitt's defense was hurrying to get organized. Early on, the speed was almost dizzying.
But the 17-3 lead the Irish forged by halftime — thanks also to Pitt's struggles inside the 20 — didn't end in a comfortable win for Notre Dame.
"Again, got off to a pretty good start offensively, but as we've shown, we are really good at stubbing our toe, whether it be a penalty here or a drop here. But that's us," Kelly said Saturday after the Irish held on to beat the Panthers 23-17.
"It's not a beauty contest yet for us."
Quarterback Dayne Crist passed for a score and ran for another in the first half, completing 12 straight passes at one point. And the Irish got three field goals from David Ruffer, who stayed perfect in his career (16-for-16) and set a school record for consecutive makes.
"You can just see the way we operate it, it can be really effective," Crist said. "We're happy with the way we were moving the ball while we were in that tempo."
The Panthers climbed back into it. Tino Sunseri hit Jon Baldwin on a 56-yard touchdown to bring the Panthers within 23-17 with 7:23 left.
Pitt got the ball back twice thereafter, both times within its 10-yard line. On its final series, Gary Gray broke up a fourth-down pass intended for Baldwin and Notre Dame ran out the clock.
Pitt moved inside the Notre Dame 20-yard line three times in the first half but managed only three points.
WEST VIRGINIA 49, UNLV 10: West Virginia's Noel Devine and Brad Starks are healthy again, and that could spell trouble for the rest of the Big East. Starks tied a school record with three touchdown receptions and Devine ran for two scores for the host Mountaineers in their final nonconference game. West Virginia piled up its most points since scoring 66 against Connecticut in 2007. The Mountaineers improved their home winning streak to 11 and open Big East play Thursday night against USF in Morgantown. "South Florida is when the real season begins," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said. UNLV didn't put up much of a fight and suffered its worst loss of the season.
Cincinnati 45, Miami (Ohio 3): The two-time defending Big East champion got its swagger back just in time. Zach Collaros threw three touchdown passes — two of them long strikes to Armon Binns — and Isaiah Pead had a pair of long runs during the host Cardinals' big first half, sending the Bearcats a over local rival. Collaros threw a 48-yard touchdown to Binns down the left sideline on the game's second play. He also threw a 32-yarder to Binns as Cincinnati pulled ahead 45-3 in the first half. Collaros finished 14-of-17 for 216 yards, leaving midway through the third quarter.
LOUISVILLE 56, MEMPHIS 0: Adam Froman threw four first-half touchdowns and Bilal Powell rushed for 204 yards with two scores to lead the host Cardinals to a homecoming rout. Froman completed 12-of-16 for 235 yards and had touchdown tosses of 39, 48, 4, 28 yards to help Louisville build a 35-0 halftime lead.