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Pitt vs. Notre Dame: Pass interference call significant in Panthers' loss

For much of Saturday's game against third-ranked Notre Dame, Pitt appeared to be the better team. The Panthers had built up a 14-point lead into the 4th quarter, only to see it disappear with two late Irish touchdowns.

One of those scores still likely has the Panthers' scratching their collective heads.

Facing a 4th down in Pitt territory, Notre Dame chose to go for it and after a pass went errant, Pitt was on the verge of receiving the ball back. That was before a flag was thrown and cornerback K'Waun Williams was whistled for pass interference. Even to the most ardent Irish supporter, it had to be pretty clear that it was a poor call and the television announcers said as much.

A team never loses based on a single play and that was evident in this case. The Panthers not only were unable to stop Notre Dame on that drive and on a later drive, but couldn't add any points of their own on the board. And in the second OT, needing only a field goal to win, Kevin Harper (who admittedly was very reliable in the game hitting several others), missed a 32-yarder. Pitt had their chances to up the game away and came up short, so this isn't about one call costing them the game.

However, that call was a big one.

Not only did it keep the Notre Dame drive alive, but it swung the momentum in their favor. Pitt floundered after that and just wasn't the same. The Irish were able to ride that wave into overtime and the rest is history. If the call doesn't get made, Pitt takes over on downs. Even a modest drive that would have eaten up at least a few minutes of clock time. Instead of being down seven points with about 14 minutes left, the Irish could have been down 14 points with about 10-11 minutes left.

Simply put, the questionable pass interference call radically changed the complexion of the game.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.