SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Down by 14 in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame was going to need some big plays and a little luck to stay undefeated and keep its national title hopes alive.

It got just enough of both Saturday night.

Everett Golson scored on a quarterback sneak in the third overtime as the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish came back from a 14-point deficit and beat Pittsburgh, 29-26.

Notre Dame (9-0) is off to its best start since 1993, when it finished the season ranked No. 2. Pitt (4-5) missed a potential winning field goal in the second overtime.

Golson re-entered the game after being replaced by Tommy Rees and threw an 11-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter as Notre Dame cut Pitt's lead to 20-12 with 13:40 left in the game.

Notre Dame's chances for a comeback appeared to end when Pitt cornerback K'Waun Williams intercepted Golson in the end zone with 3:59 left.

But the Irish defense held, and Golson completed a 45-yard pass to DaVaris Daniels to the Pitt 5. Golson then threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Theo Riddick with 2:11 left and ran in for the two-point conversion to tie the game.

After the teams traded field goals in the first overtime, Notre Dame's Cierre Wood fumbled as he attempted to dive into the end zone in the second overtime and Pitt safety Jarred Holley recovered.

But the Irish kept finding life, and Pitt's Kevin Harper missed a 33-yard field goal wide right to force a third overtime.

Golson was 23-for-42 passing for 227 yards and rushed for 74 yards, as he kept the Pitt defense off balance. The Irish needed big plays to overcome a stellar performance from Pitt's Ray Graham, who rushed for 172 yards, including runs of 55 and 48 yards.

Graham, one of three Pitt players allowed to play despite facing misdemeanor charges, gave the Panthers a 10-6 lead when he ran past an attempted tackle by Notre Dame safety Matthias Farley and sprinted along the sideline for the score. It was just the second rushing touchdown allowed by the Irish defense this season.

The Panthers went ahead 17-6 after Pitt linebacker Eric Williams intercepted Rees at midfield. Tino Sunseri threw a 43-yard pass to J.P. Holtz, then a 9-yard TD pass to Holtz. The Panthers made it 20-6 on a 21-yard field goal by Harper.

Sunseri was 19-for-29 for 164 yards and was sacked five times.

All five Notre Dame home games this season have been decided by a touchdown or less.


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