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Posted: Saturday September 24, 2011 4:31PM ; Updated: Sunday September 25, 2011 3:38AM

Snap Judgments: Irish inspire little confidence in winning effort; more

Story Highlights

Notre Dame eeked out the win, but it was another underwhelming performance

Michigan beat San Diego State in truly awe-inspiring fashion: with great defense

Plus: Ga. Tech passes first test, Maryland gets embarrassed, Toledo gets jobbed

By Gennaro Filice, Special to SI.com

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Quarterback Tommy Rees fumbled and threw an interception against Pitt, but came through in the fourth-quarter to lead Notre Dame to the win.
Quarterback Tommy Rees fumbled and threw an interception against Pitt, but came through in the fourth-quarter to lead Notre Dame to the win.
Matt Cashore/US PRESSWIRE

Notre Dame 15, Pittsburgh 12: Despite continued self-inflicted pain that's borderline masochistic, Notre Dame managed to eek out a road win at Pittsburgh and even its record at 2-2. While the Irish defense deserves credit for holding the Panthers to 268 yards, it's impossible to leave this game feeling positive about Brian Kelly's team as a whole.

The Irish entered Kelly's second season with BCS hype, but their performance thus far has been a comedy of errors. Notre Dame opened the season with a pair of nauseating losses to South Florida and Michigan. Despite outplaying both teams in most respects, the Irish repeatedly got in their own way with five turnovers in each game and a bevy of crippling penalties. Even in last week's convincing 31-13 win over then No. 15 Michigan State, Notre Dame committed three turnovers.

Quarterback Tommy Rees committed two more costly turnovers Saturday, keeping Pitt right in the game and giving the Irish an astounding 15 turnovers in 16 quarters. The sloptastic Irish also committed eight penalties for 85 yards. Not surprisingly, viewers were treated to more red-faced screaming from Coach Kelly in the fourth quarter. This continual shoddy play doesn't reflect well on the Notre Dame boss.

Rees does deserve praise, though, for directing the eventual game-winning drive. Quarterback play hasn't been Notre Dame's strength this season, but No. 11 came up big in the fourth-quarter scoring drive that gave ND the game's final 15-12 advantage. Rees guided the Irish on an 11-play, 85-yard march, completing all eight of his pass attempts and hitting tight end Tyler Eifert for the touchdown and ensuing two-point conversion.

It may have been a win, but all in all it was another underwhelming performance for a program that continues to seek that elusive "Return to Glory." (RECAP | BOX)

No. 22 Michigan 28, San Diego State 7: Hoke-a-mania has taken Ann Arbor by storm over the last eight months, but Brady Hoke's team provided something truly awe-inspiring Saturday against San Diego State: defense.

Hoke's former team arrived at Michigan Stadium with a 3-0 record, the nation's second-leading rusher (Ronnie Hillman) and an NFL-caliber signal-caller (Ryan Lindley). Needless to say, increasingly cautious Wolverines fans feared another national-punchline moment in this high-risk, low-reward matchup: A Mountain West team storming the Big House and knocking off the coach who skipped town.

But the rejuvenated Wolverines wouldn't have it that way, thanks in large part to real, genuine defense -- a rare commodity during Rich Rodriguez's three-year tenure. Coming into this game, San Diego State had scored 14 points in the first quarter in each of its last seven games, dating back to last season. Not only did Greg Mattison's defense keep the Aztecs off the board in the first period, but the Wolverines pitched a first-half shutout, something they hadn't done since the 2009 season opener (a 31-7 win over Western Michigan).

Michigan wins with D
Source: SI
Denard Robinson had a huge day on the ground, but Michigan handled SDSU thanks to bend-but-don't break defense.

Michigan allowed 375 yards of offense, which isn't an astounding figure on its own, but the Wolverines continually buckled down once San Diego State crossed the 50 and ball-hawked their way to three fumble recoveries. A little bendable, but a far cry from the completely broken days of the past few years. And while the Michigan offense tried to let San Diego State back in the game by turning the ball over three times in its own territory during a shoddy third quarter, the defense only allowed seven points off the miscues. That defensive fortitude bodes well for the Wolverines entering Big Ten play, in which Michigan managed a 6-18 mark during the RichRod era.

The game also featured a healthy dose of Denard Robinson. The electric Heisman candidate guided Michigan to a 21-0 halftime lead by rushing for 139 yards and three scores in the first 30 minutes. Shoelace finished with three touchdowns and 200 yards rushing on 21 carries (a healthy 9.5 yards per pop), but he continued to struggle throwing the football. Robinson completed just 8-of-17 passes for 93 yards and two interceptions, making a number of questionable decisions and continuing to miss open receivers down field. Nobody's perfect, I suppose. (RECAP | BOX)

No. 25 Georgia Tech 35, North Carolina 28: Well, the nation's No. 1 offense finally faced a defense with a pulse, and Paul Johnson's triple option passed the test. Going against a North Carolina D with next-level talent, Georgia Tech (4-0) tossed up 496 yards of offense. (A far cry from the 675-yard average Tech entered the day with -- but again, real defense.) Jackets quarterback Tevin Washington once again led the charge, throwing for 184 yards and a touchdown and running for 74 and two more scores. Through Tech's first three games, Washington had posted touchdown passes of 82, 77, 77, 73, 71, 67 and 52 yards -- What?! -- and he added a 59-yarder today to Stephen Hill. Hill finished with six catches for 151 yards and did his best Calvin Johnson impression with a crazy one-handed grab by the sideline. (RECAP | BOX | SI VideoHIGHLIGHTS)

Temple 38, Maryland 7: Maryland provided another ... uh ... imaginative look against Temple. Unfortunately, this black, red and yellow creation did not have the same effect on the field as the now-infamous flag duds the Terps wore in their season-opening win over Miami. "Oregon East" was blown out of Byrd Stadium by the Owls, who fell just short of upsetting Penn State last week and entered today's contest in College Park as nine-point road 'dogs. Thirty game minutes later, the Owls held a stunning 31-0 halftime advantage. Running back Bernard Pierce contributed all five Temple touchdowns, finishing with 149 yards rushing on 32 carries. So, Under Armour's guinea pig drops to 1-2. Less wardrobe planning, more practice. (RECAP | BOX)

Syracuse 33, Toledo 30 (OT): Toledo: The nation's best 1-3 team? And the least lucky? The Rockets kicked a field goal to tie the game at 30-all and force overtime, but the Orange only had 30 because of a botched PAT call. 'Cuse won 33-30, but should have lost 30-29. (RECAP | BOX)

Georgia 27, Mississippi 13: Mark Richt wins The Hot Seat Bowl! Where's the Gatorade bath? Richt entered this season with plenty of job uncertainty, and a 1-2 start didn't help the cause. But the Bulldogs' gave their coach a win he needed to have with a well-rounded offensive effort. Aaron Murray threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns, while freshman sensation Isaiah Crowell grinded out 147 tough yards on 30 carries. On the other sideline, Houston Nutt's future at Ole Miss looks bleaker than ever, with the Rebels dropping to 1-3 overall and 0-2 in SEC play. (RECAP | BOX | SI VideoHIGHLIGHTS)

Michigan State 45, Central Michigan 7: How does a team pick itself up off the mat after a horribly uninspired loss to a rival? Directional-school body-bagger! (RECAP | BOX)

Penn State 34, Eastern Michigan 6: Penn State threw a touchdown pass! Penn State threw a touchdown pass! Robert Bolden started the game for the Nittany Lions, but Matt McGloin came off the bench and had the better day overall. McGloin completed 14 of his 17 attempts for 220 yards and three touchdowns -- including PSU's first passing score of the season, in the second quarter of the team's fourth game. Hurrah! (RECAP | BOX)

Boston College 45, UMass 17: The good news: Boston College is off the schneid, winning its first game in four tries. The less-good news: It came against UMass, a program that's still transitioning from FCS to FBS. Stupid details. (RECAP | BOX)

Enjoy watching football on Sundays, too? Check out Gennaro Filice's NFL blog, GodBlessSunday.com. Follow Gennaro on Twitter @GennaroFilice.

 
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