Notre Dame Football: What we learned 110412

Notre Dame somehow reached 9-0 Saturday. Here's what to make of the performance.

1. Everett Golson withstands test: The young quarterback passed a different kind of test Saturday. Yes, one week earlier in Norman, Okla., might have been his coming-out party, but his ability to bounce back from getting curiously pulled, then recover from a potential game-changing interception shows the poise the Irish need under center. The redshirt freshman climbed another big step.

2. Louis Nix, Matthias Farley rise to occasion: Nix did not start after spending two nights in the infirmary, but he played plenty and finished with four tackles and half a sack. Farley suffered a right hand injury in last week's win and, according to coach Brian Kelly, had two plates and six screws inserted into his hand Tuesday. He practiced the next two days with a cast, which he played with Saturday.

3. Defense, for once, was not perfect: Ray Graham broke free for a 55-yard run on Pitt's first offensive play and set the tone early. Graham finished with 197 total yards and a rushing touchdown, the first the Irish have surrendered to a running back this season and just the second rushing touchdown they have given up in 2012. The Panthers took advantage of good field position and did not turn the ball over, giving themselves a good chance to win. The Irish's defense did not have its best performance, although it stepped up late and finished the day with five sacks.

4. Special teams, anyone? Kudos to Kyle Brindza for tying the game in double overtime with a 37-yard field goal. But he missed one earlier, and an extra point, though not all of it was his fault. The coverage unit gave up 25.6 yards per kick return and 19 yards per punt return, and Davonte Neal fumbled one punt and misplayed two others.

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