Of course, Rees did his part to help.
Notre Dame was driving for a go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter when Rees floated a pass to the back of the end zone that Vinopal leapt in front of to end the threat.
Pitt punted, but Rees gave it right back. He tried to go deep down the seam but overshot his receiver. The ball sailed into Vinopal’s hands and the safety returned it 45 yards to the Notre Dame 5. Two plays later Conner ran up the middle to put Pittsburgh in front to stay.
The Irish drove to the Pitt 38 on its final drive, but Rees’ fourth-down pass to DaVaris Daniels was knocked away by Panthers defensive back Anthony Gonzalez.
The Irish appeared to be in control when Rees hit Jones for an 80-yard touchdown to make it 21-14 with 3:29 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers responded immediately. Savage found Street for a 63-yard score to tie it at 21.
The Irish drove the length of the field but stumbled when Rees’ threw his first pick to Vinopal. Notre Dame never recovered, ending a streak of 10 straight victories in games decided by a touchdown or less.
The Irish took an early 7-0 lead when a fourth-down conversion in Pitt territory set up a 10-yard touchdown pass from Rees to Daniels, one of the better throws by Rees in windy conditions that made any pass more than a handful of yards downfield treacherous.
Pitt’s offense, which hasn’t been the same since Savage sustained a concussion in a win over Virginia on Sept. 28, sprang to life with some help from the Irish. Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt was ejected for targeting when officials ruled he lead with his helmet while going to tackle a scrambling Savage early in the second quarter. Eight plays later the game was tied when Savage found Street for a 3-yard score.
Notre Dame pushed back in front midway through the second quarter when a short punt by the Panthers gave the Irish the ball at the Pitt 39. Rees hit Ben Koyack with a 38-yard gain to the 1 and Jones eluded two Pitt defenders on third-and-goal to make it 14-7 at the half.
All it did was set the stage for yet another close finish.
In this photo made with a fisheye lens, Pittsburgh takes on Notre Dame in an NCAA college football game on the playing surface as fans watch at Heinz Field on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won 28-21. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)