Football: Baldwin, Lewis shine in Panthers win over Notre Dame

By Jay Huerbin

Jonathan Baldwin made it look easy.

But so did Dion Lewis.

The two young stars made great plays against Notre Dame as the No. 8 Panthers escaped with a 27-22 win over the Fighting Irish tonight in front of a sold out Heinz Field.

Late in the second quarter, the 6-foot-5 sophomore receiver laid out and caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Bill Stull to give the Panthers a 10-3 lead at halftime. Baldwin finished the game with five receptions for 142 yards and the one touchdown.

“It was just a natural instinct for me” Baldwin said about his touchdown catch.

Head coach Dave Wannstedt said Baldwin’s performance was a “statement.”

“Jonathan Baldwin, you want to talk about a statement game,” Wannstedt said. “He does things that you do not coach.”

Lewis, the true freshman, shined when he took a handoff with about two minutes into the fourth quarter and broke through the line and into the secondary. A few dekes and a couple missed tackles later and Lewis found his way into the endzone for his 13th rushing touchdown of the season.

He ended the day with 21 rushes for 154 yards and the one touchdown. He also caught one pass for eight yards.

“We always talk about finishing games, playing all four quarters and all 15 rounds,” Lewis said. “We showed that we can play. We bent, but we did not break.”

The Panthers led the Fighting Irish for the entire game — and they were up 27-9 after Lewis’ touchdown run — but Notre Dame scored 13 unanswered in the fourth quarter to make it a closer match.

Notre Dame quarterback, Jimmy Clausen, was held without a touchdown for most of the game, but he finally connected on an 18-yard pass to Golden Tate for a score with roughly nine minutes left in the game.

The Irish scored less than two minutes later when Tate returned a Dan Hutchins’ punt 87 yards for a touchdown.

But redshirt junior Greg Romeus saved the victory for the Panthers.

Pitt’s defense, which looked strong through the first three quarters, made a big stop late in the game. On a third-and-16 with just over two minutes remaining, Romeus forced a fumble.

The play, which was ruled an incomplete pass on the field, was overturned after an official review. Redshirt sophomore Miles Caragein picked up the loose ball and was credited with the recovery.

“It was a great feeling. We pride ourselves in making plays on the defensive line,” Romeus said about the fumble. “It was great to get pressure and have Clausen actually throw a fumble.”

Romeus’ forced fumble was the result of game-long defensive pressure on Clausen. Jabaal Sheard and Gus Mustakas recorded one sack each. The Panthers hurried Clausen nine times throughout the game and stopped the Irish eight times behind the line of scrimmage.

“Pressure was steady all day,” Wannstedt said. “Sometimes good pressure from a pass rush can be better than a sack. You get interceptions and incomplete passes off of good pressure.”

Clausen finished the game with 283 yards and one touchdown and one interception. He averaged 307.8 yards per game heading into tonight’s matchup against Pitt.

For the Panthers, Stull was 15-for-27 passing against Notre Dame with 235 yards and one touchdown. Stull looked to Baldwin often throughout the game, hitting him on passes of 51 and 21 yards — and the 36-yard touchdown pass.

The Panthers have a bye week next weekend, but will head to West Virginia on Nov. 27 before finishing the season at Heinz Field when they host Cincinnati on Dec. 5.

Notes: Baldwin’s 142 receiving yards was his fifth 100-yard performance of the season…Romeus also blocked a Notre Dame extra point early in the fourth quarter…Lewis has 84 points on the season, which ranks as the second-most points scored by a freshman in Pitt history. LeSean McCoy holds the record with 90 points…Announced attendance at Heinz Field was 65,374