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Notre Dame’s relationship with Pitt couldn’t be closer

SATURDAY

NO. 24 NOTRE DAME
AT PITTSBURGH

The facts: 7 p.m., Ch. 7, 890-AM.

The records: ND 7-2, Pitt 4-4.

The line: Notre Dame by 4 1⁄2.

Updated: December 10, 2013 6:15AM



SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Zack Martin didn’t want to watch. So Notre Dame’s left tackle stared at the ground as Pittsburgh kicker Kevin Harper lined up for a 33-yard field goal in the second overtime of last year’s game at Notre Dame Stadium.

The crowd would let Martin know if the Irish still had a chance.

Harper missed, extending the game another overtime.

‘‘It was relief,’’ Martin said of his reaction, ‘‘and to know we had another opportunity to get this one. Luckily we were able to get it.”

The Irish won the thriller in triple overtime.

Notre Dame and Pitt have a habit of playing close games. The last five in the series have been decided by a touchdown or less. The teams meet today at Heinz Field.

Last year’s victory is part of a trend for the Irish, who have won their last 10 games that have been decided by seven points or fewer. The latest was last week’s 38-34 victory against Navy.

‘‘It’s a challenge each and every week to play teams that are going to play their very best, there is no question about it, but that comes with the territory, and I knew that coming in,’’ Irish coach Brian Kelly said. ‘‘We have been fortunate so far that we’re holding our own.

‘‘Our guys play and play hard. That’s all I can ask from them.’’

Notre Dame’s last defeat in a game decided by a touchdown or less was an 18-14 loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec.  29, 2011.

The Irish went 5-0 in games that close last year and are 5-0 again this season.

‘‘We’ve played in a lot of tight games, so we know what it takes to win them — it starts with the coaching staff and the way we prepare,’’ quarterback Tommy Rees said. ‘‘We have guys who are willing to fight for four quarters. We understand that games are not won or lost until that clock hits zero. For us, we’re going to find a way to execute or be successful until the game is over.’’

Notre Dame anticipates another close one today.

‘‘They are a very physical, and they know how to fight to the end,’’ Martin said. ‘‘That’s what we’ve been priding ourselves on, to fight to the end and get the close ones.’’

Email: lpope@post-trib.com

Twitter: @lamondpope



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