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Associated Press
Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert looks up after catching a game-winning touchdown pass during the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh on Saturday in South Bend. Eifert finished with eight catches for 75 yards and the score.

Eifert breaks out in win over Pittsburgh

– Tyler Eifert is rewarding Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly for using a tight end-friendly spread offense.

The former Bishop Dwenger standout is the Irish’s second-leading receiver this season with 20 catches for 244 yards.

“We really felt last year he was a special player,” Kelly said.

Eifert is coming off a breakout game as Notre Dame (2-2) gets ready to play at Purdue (2-1) on Saturday.

The 6-foot-6, 249-pound junior gained 75 yards on a career-high eight receptions with a touchdown in Saturday’s 15-12 win at Pittsburgh. On the game-winning drive, Eifert caught four passes for 34 yards and hauled in the game-winning touchdown and ensuing two-point conversion.

The performance against Pitt earned Eifert independent offensive player and John Mackey Tight End of the week honors.

“I think coach Kelly does a good job of losing the tight end in the passing offense,” said Eifert, whose father, Greg, played basketball for the Boilermakers from 1981-84.

“It’s a little bit different than other spread offenses. It’s just knowing my responsibility and doing my job. You got to let the game come to you, and Saturday was a day they called my number a lot.”

Having a productive tight end is nothing new in Kelly’s system.

In Kelly first season with Cincinnati, tight end Conner Barwin was the team’s fourth-leading receiver with 31 receptions for 399 yards and two touchdowns, and Earnest Jackson was fifth with 17 catches for 236 yards and three touchdowns.

Ben Guidugli was the Bearcats’ fifth-leading receiver in 2008 with 28 catches for 229 yards and a touchdown and was fourth in 2009 with 27 catches for 364 yards and three touchdowns.

“We have a different way of doing business, and our tight end has to be a hybrid football player,” offensive coordinator Charley Molnar said. “That guy has to be not only physically gifted; he also has to be very smart. I think Tyler Eifert is really starting to bloom in our offense.”

tkrausz@jg.net

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