SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Everett Golson dived underneath the pile, and the pile swallowed him whole. Even as noise then rolled through the place like an unending thunderclap, even as spine-starching evening air crackled with a cocktail of disbelief and glee, even as the pile lurched back and forth, the Notre Dame quarterback stayed disappeared.

Somewhere in the thicket of bodies, Golson encountered center Braxston Cave. Moments earlier, the line pushed and the quarterback crossed the end zone plane and crossed over into delirium, and now Golson had another request.

We did it, the quarterback told Cave. Now get me out of here.

When Golson emerged at last, backlit by the stadium's glow, he leapt and screamed and punched the air after a 29-26, three-overtime victory over Pittsburgh. It was an exasperating day of the ordinary turned extraordinary and back, of title hopes for BCS No. 3 Notre Dame reduced from a 100-foot bonfire to smoldering ash and then sparked again.

The Irish are 9-0, they are still in the national championship hunt and they were happy to get out alive Saturday.

"This win was needed," Golson said, after starting, getting benched and then ultimately throwing for 227 yards, rushing for 74 and accounting for three touchdowns. "I like to think this is what good teams do, coming together and handling major adversity."


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Notre Dame was down 14 points entering the fourth quarter. Driving for the game-tying score, Golson was intercepted in the end zone. After the Irish forced overtime, tailback Cierre Wood fumbled at the goal-line in the second extra session, setting up Pittsburgh (4-5) with a chance to win, but Kevin Harper missed a 33-yard field goal try.

"We missed a field goal, that's why we lost the game," Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri said. "It came down to a special teams play, we didn't make the play. Give credit to Notre Dame for being able to finish it off."

Golson recovered from that fourth-quarter pick to toss a 5-yard touchdown pass to Theo Riddick with 2 minutes, 11 seconds left and then to scramble in for the tying two-point conversion.

The first overtime passed with matching field goals, and then came Wood's fumble in the second overtime. Notre Dame allowed a field goal in the third OT but then marched to Golson's winning sneak from one foot out.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.