SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Ian Book threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Miles Boykin with 5:43 remaining and No. 5 Notre Dame remained unbeaten, coming from behind and then holding off Pittsburgh 19-14 on Saturday.
The Fighting Irish are 7-0 for the first time since 2012, the year they went to the BCS title game, and this game against Pitt was reminiscent of that season's victory in South Bend against the Panthers (3-4).
"Proud of our guys and their grit - they hung in there and found a way to win," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "We were not sharp mentally, we didn't execute efficiently. They weren't at their best and Pittsburgh played well. We still found a way."
Pitt led 14-12 thanks to a long first-quarter touchdown drive and a 99-yard kickoff return by Maurice Ffrench to start the second half.
Pat Narduzzi's Panthers were looking to upset an Associated Press top-five team for the third straight season after knocking off No. 3 Clemson in Death Valley during the 2016 season and No. 2 Miami last November in Pittsburgh.
But the Irish, who were held to 80 yards rushing, prevailed behind Book, who is 4-0 as a starter since replacing Brandon Wimbush. Book was intercepted twice, but finished with 264 yards passing. He was 13 of 14 for 158 yards in the second half. Boykin had four receptions for 84 yards in the game.
"I feel bad for our kids in the locker room," Narduzzi said. "I'm disappointed for them. They fought their tails off. We were ahead almost the entire game. Sometimes you can't control what you can't control. We went toe-to-toe with a top-five team and we didn't pull it off in the end."
Book and Boykin have connected for memorable plays before, including the 55-yard winning touchdown with 1:28 remaining in Notre Dame's 21-17 victory over LSU at the Citrus Bowl last season.
Pitt senior running tandem of Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison rushed for 62 and 50 yards, respectively, with Ollison scoring the Panthers' first touchdown on a 9-yard run that capped a 17-play drive on their first possession of the game.
Kenny Pickett was 19 for 28 for 126 yards, and was sacked by Khalid Kareem - Notre Dame's only sack of the game - for a loss of 14 yards on Pitt's final possession to set up a fourth-and-long the Panthers could not convert.
Pitt also ran a strange faked punt on its second-to-last drive around midfield that failed.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers gained just 12 yards on their last three drives of the first half. Their first, however, was a thing of beauty: 17 plays, 88 yards, six first downs, consuming 9:43 of the clock and ending with Ollison taking a direct snap, faking an end-around handoff and running into the end zone on second-and-goal from the Irish 9.
Notre Dame: The Irish trailed for the first times after the first quarter (7-0), at halftime (7-6) and after three quarters (14-12), and they were their own worst enemy with turnovers, quarterback sacks and penalties at inopportune times. On Pitt's opening touchdown drive, the Panthers dropped back to punt on fourth-and-4 at their own 29, but Notre Dame jumped offside, giving the Panthers a first down that kept their drive alive.
This is the 11th time in the last 12 games between the two teams that the winning margin was in single digits. The Panthers won 28-21 in 2013 and 27-22 in 2009, both at home. Pitt last win at Notre Dame Stadium was a 36-33 four-overtime affair in 2008.
The Irish also prevailed at home 29-26 in triple overtime in 2012 in a game in which the Panthers missed a possible game-winning field goal in the second extra period.
Notre Dame, which entered the game averaging 195.7 yards (47th nationally), took a hit as Pittsburgh's front four held the Irish to just 80 yards on 38 carries. Notre Dame had a net gain of 124 yards but lost 32 of its 44 yards on three first-half quarterback sacks, 1.5 by Rashad Weaver.
Senior Dexter Williams, who had gained 339 yards and rushed for four touchdowns in the two games since a university-imposed, four-game suspension, totaled just 31 yards on 13 carries. Book, who lost 35 yards rushing, also finished with 31 yards on 16 carries.
The Irish did not score a rushing touchdown for the first time this season.
ISN'T THAT (NOT) SPECIAL
For the second time this season, Notre Dame gave up a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown when Ffrench opened the second half by burning the Irish. He found a seem in the middle and cut outside and eluded the tackle efforts of kicker Jonathan Doerer, Nicco Fertitta and Alohi Gilman to put the Panthers up 14-6.
The Irish gave up a 99-yard kickoff return to Michigan's Ambry Thomas during a season-opening 24-17 victory over the Wolverines.
Pittsburgh: Off next week and plays host to Duke Oct. 27.
Notre Dame: Off next week and plays Navy in San Diego Oct. 27.