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Notre Dame survives Pittsburgh in three overtimes to stay perfect

Everett Gols(5) BraxstCave (52) JustUtupo whoop it up after Golson’s game-winning touchdown against Pittsburgh. | Getty Images

Everett Golson (5), Braxston Cave (52) and Justin Utupo whoop it up after Golson’s game-winning touchdown against Pittsburgh. | Getty Images

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Updated: December 5, 2012 6:46AM



SOUTH BEND, Ind. — For a moment, Everett Golson was content to be at the center of an Irish mob — teammates, cheerleaders, stadium workers and a few stray fans descending on him in a wild scene of absolute joy, absolute relief and absolute insanity. He found center Braxston Cave, and the two exchanged a “Good job!” and a “We did it!” before Golson realized just how chaotic the scene was.

“Maybe three seconds in, I told him, ‘Get me outta here; I gotta get out,’ ” Golson recalled with a smile. “There were a whole bunch of people swarming me.”

Cave ushered Golson through the mass of humanity and down the field to safety.

One last great escape for the Irish on this night.

Notre Dame dodged bullet after bullet and somehow emerged unscathed on Saturday night, as Golson bounced back from another benching to rally the Irish from 14 points down in the fourth quarter, stealing a 29-26 triple-overtime victory from Pittsburgh and keeping their national-championship dreams alive.

“This team’s tough, resilient,” defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said. “If there’s time left, we’re still going to fight.”

It was a remarkable win over an unremarkable opponent, a cautionary tale and lesson learned not to take anyone lightly. Coming off a huge win at Oklahoma, the Irish appeared to have lost this one several times.

They fell behind by 14 with a sputtering red-zone offense and a suddenly porous run defense, as Pitt’s Ray Graham rushed for 172 yards and a touchdown. But Golson — benched after his missed reads and poor decision-making contributed to the slow start — returned to the game after Tommy Rees ended his third series with a brutal interception and led a stirring comeback and a second straight coming-of-age win.

Down 20-6, Golson capped a long drive with an 11-yard pass to TJ Jones. But Kyle Brindza missed the extra point, leaving it a 20-12 deficit. That swing — so high to so low — was emblematic of the rest of the game.

Golson brilliantly drove ND down the field again, but he was picked off in the end zone with 3:59 left. A huge three-and-out by a resurgent Irish defense gave Golson another shot, and he immediately threw a 45-yard heave to DaVaris Daniels, followed by a five-yard TD strike to Theo Riddick. Needing the two-point conversion, Golson rolled right, checked down two passing options and kept it himself, darting into the end zone to get Brindza off the hook and tie the game at 20.

Overtime was even wilder. The teams traded field goals in the first overtime, and the Irish moved well in the second before Cierre Wood fumbled as he leaped across the goal line. All the Panthers needed was a field goal, but Kevin Harper missed the potential game-winner from 33 yards out.

“Crazy,” tackle Zack Martin said.

Right after that kick — a kick that would’ve pinched the Irish and rudely awoken them from their national-championship dreams — sailed wide, Golson skipped down the sideline, violently low-fiving his teammates, his trainers, the guy carrying the footballs, anyone he saw along the way.

“Let’s go!” he said. “We got this!”

After another defensive stand, Golson then lunged across the goal line, triggering a wild celebration before following his blockers and escaping one last time down the tunnel and into a delirious locker room full of guys who didn’t care about style points, computer rankings and public perception, only that they’re 9-0 and still in the hunt.

“It’s a roller coaster,” Riddick said. “Very draining. But we fought and won. That’s all that matters.”



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