Photo: Vince Butts

DB Therran Coleman’s timely interception in overtime gave Pitt a thrilling 44-37 victory in their annual Homecoming Game that also included a 3rd quarter delay due to storms, gutsy wins and lightning. It was the type of win that the Panthers needed to preserve a season, and they did it the way they needed to, by fighting for it.
“”This football team in those throwback jerseys in there, they’ve got character. They had their backs against the wall, everybody talking about who they are. We know who we are. … I couldn’t be prouder. “Said Pitt HC Pat Narduzzi, who remains undefeated against Syracuse at Heinz Field. “I’m happy for those guys in there, they needed this win.”
But it was the running game that showed the most guts as they ran for a game-high 265 yards, led by Ollison’s 192 and Darrin Hall’s 107 to keep Pitt in the game. “When you have 2 great tailbacks, those guys ran hard, they were our 2-headed monster.”-Said Narduzzi. Hall scored twice from the Wildcat formation, in which he took the snap and ran it up the middle for much-needed TDs.
But Syracuse made Pitt earn it, especially after they took an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter which was orchestrated by QB Eric Dungey and one of 3 Pitt turnovers.
But Ollison’s 69-yard TD run by RB Quadree Ollison and a fumble recovery for a TD by CB Dane Jackson enabled Pitt to tie the game at 14. And then there was K Alex Kessman who would give Pitt their first lead of the game with field goals of 55 and 54. His 55-yarder set a Heinz Field record (College or Professional) as the Panthers went into halftime with the 20-17 lead.


The Panthers would extend their lead to 27-17 lead when QB Kenny Pickett threw a routine pass to WR Rafael Araujo-Lopes for a 68-yard TD run to extend their lead to 27-17 before the rains came and the players had to evacuate the field for an hour.
Once play resumed, so did the Orange as they took a 34-27 lead, but the Panthers refused to quit on Hall’s TD and Kessman’s FG to tie it at 34 and 37. In overtime, Syracuse won the toss but chose to defer, which led the way for Hall’s 2nd TD of the game. And when the Orange took over, Dungey’s first pass was one he would regret as it was picked off by Coleman in the back of the end zone to secure the victory for Pitt.
Despite it all, Pitt’s offense was basically conservative as Pickett threw for only 137 yards and made some questionable decisions at times, especially at the end of regulation.” I wanted our running backs to win it for us,” Said Narduzzi “I wanted our offensive line to win it for us. If you look at the stats, that defensive line can sack the quarterback.”
The Panthers will enjoy this win before taking on Nationally-Ranked Notre Dame Next Saturday at South Bend.
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2018 Pitt Football Game Notes
Saturday, October 6, 2018 • Heinz Field
Game No. 6: Pitt 44, Syracuse 37

Team
• Pitt recovered from an early 14-0 deficit to defeat Syracuse in overtime, 44-37. Pitt is now 8-1 against the Orange at Heinz Field, the lone loss coming in the venue’s inaugural year in 2001.
• The Panthers now lead the all-time series, 39-32-3. Pitt leads the ACC series, 5-1.
• Pitt had two 100-yard rushers in a game (Qadree Ollison, 192; Darrin Hall, 107) for the first time since Nov. 26, 2016, when James Conner (115) and Quadree Henderson (103) also accomplished the feat against Syracuse.
• Pitt totaled a season-high 265 rush yards as a team, the 19th time it has reached the 200-yard rushing milestone under Pat Narduzzi. The Panthers are 14-5 under Narduzzi when rushing for more than 200 yards.
• The game was delayed due to severe weather at the 14:12 mark of the third quarter (approximately 2:15 p.m.). It resumed at 3:25 p.m.
• Today marked Pitt’s first weather delayed game since a 45-38 loss at Oklahoma State (in Stillwater, Okla.) on Sept. 17, 2016. That delay lasted nearly two hours. It was the Panthers’ first delayed game at Heinz Field since Sept. 1, 2012, when the start of Pitt’s home opener vs. Youngstown State was delayed 30 minutes (a 31-17 loss).

Alex Kessman
• Placekicker Alex Kessman kicked field goals of 54 and 55 yards. Kessman now has four field goals of 50-plus yards: 56 yards at Syracuse (Oct. 7, 2017, tying school record), 55 yards at Georgia Tech (Sept. 23, 2017), and today’s 55 and 54-yarders.
• Kessman now has the two longest field goals at Heinz Field, professional or college. He eclipsed the prior record of 54 held by Old Dominion’s Jarod Brown (set in 2013 against Pitt). The longest NFL kick at Heinz Field is 53 yards held by Chris Boswell (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Dan Bailey (Dallas Cowboys).
• Kessman now has four of the six longest field goals in Pitt history: (T-1st) Chris Blewitt @Georgia Tech, 56 (10/17/15), Alex Kessman @Syracuse, 56 (10/7/17), (T-3rd) Alex Kessman @Georgia Tech, 55 (9/23/17), Alex Kessman vs. Syracuse, 55 (10/6/18); (T-5th) David Merrick vs. Texas, 54 (9/3/94), Alex Kessman vs. Syracuse, 54 (10/6/18).

Qadree Ollison
• Tailback Qadree Ollison rushed for a season-high 192 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. The 192 yards marked the second-highest rushing total of his career (207 vs. Youngstown State, Sept. 5, 2015).
• Ollison scored Pitt’s first touchdown on a 69-yard run, the second longest rush of his collegiate career. His longest is a 71-yard scoring run against Youngstown State on Sept. 5, 2015.
• Ollison now has seven 100-yard rushing games for his career, including two this season.

Darrin Hall
• Tailback Darrin Hall rushed for a season-high 107 yards and two TDs on 17 carries. He now has five 100-yard outings for his career.

Rafael Araujo-Lopes
• Receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes turned a short pass from quarterback Kenny Pickett into a career-long 68-yard touchdown catch.
• The play was Pitt’s longest touchdown pass since Nathan Peterman connected with Jester Weah for a 69-yarder against Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 28, 2016.

Therran Coleman
• Sophomore safety Therran Coleman clinched the victory by intercepting Eric Dungey in the end zone in overtime. It was the first interception of his career.

Dane Jackson
• Cornerback Dane Jackson’s 35-yard fumble return touchdown marked the second TD of his Pitt career. His other score also occurred against Syracuse, a 20-yard interception return on Nov. 26, 2016. It marked the Panthers’ longest fumble return for a score since linebacker Greg Williams had a 50-yarder at Buffalo on Sept. 12, 2009.
• Jackson’s touchdown marked Pitt’s 33rd defensive TD since 2001—and eight of those have come against Syracuse.

Amir Watts
• Defensive tackle Amir Watts had the first interception of his career when he picked off Eric Dungey in the second quarter. It was the first INT by a Pitt interior defensive lineman since Chas Alecxih against Buffalo on Sept. 3, 2011.

Pat Narduzzi Postgame Press Conference
October 6, 2018
Syracuse

HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: Well, that was a long game. Sorry you guys had to stay so long, a little delay. How long was that delay? An hour?
But you know, this football team in those throwback jerseys in there, they have got character. They had their backs against the wall. You know, everybody talking about who they are. We talked about who we are. We know who we are, okay. We know what the schedule looks like. We know who we play. We know who we lost to. We know what we did or didn’t do to win or lose a football game and I couldn’t be prouder of that locker room in there.
Those guys fought and fought and fought, we’re down 14 points to start off, and I’m sure everybody is going, oh, here we go again but our guys continue to believe, okay, and that talks about character right there. That is character.
And then we are up and then we’re down, we’re back and forth, but there were some big plays in there. You talk about those two tailbacks, Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, we have a two-headed monster back there, those guys were unbelievable. You have Dane Jackson, scoops and scores; and you know, Amir Watts with that interception dropping off as a D-tackle, execution.
Kessman was lights out, kicked every kickoff into the end zone, okay. And I know that sounds like, oh, how about his field goals, his 55, his 53, his kick there at the end to put it into overtime, incredible. 82 on the big bubble, tip-toeing down the sideline; I could go on and on, and the way the offensive line blocked those two tailbacks, and those tailbacks ran hard.
And then of course, Therran Coleman to end it on a sprint out pass that they don’t do very often, you know, guy maybe played 15, 20 snaps today and ends up being the game winner. But just incredible game. I’m happy for those guys in there. They needed that one, and they deserved that one.
So with that, if you guys had any other questions — I told you the whole game, what happened right there (Laughter).
Q. What about your play calling in the fourth quarter? You wanted your running backs to win it for you?
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: I wanted our running backs to win it for us. I wanted our offensive line to win it for us. If you look at the stats, that defensive line can sack the quarterback.
So I wasn’t going to put in our hands of just letting those guys scream up the field and smack us in the mouth. I don’t know how many sacks they had, what, four, I’m guessing? I don’t even know — three. That was three too many.
Let me tell you, that’s a good football team. Dino Babers, that is a good football team. They gave the game away — I don’t want to say that. They gave the game away a week ago. They should have won that and they should be undefeated. That is a good football team with an experienced quarterback that’s been there since, I don’t know, shoot, I got here. That’s a good football team that’s going to win a lot of football games, and you know, I feel bad for Dino Babers. He’s a heck of a guy. I really like him. He’s a class act. Those guys played their tails off in that locker room, as well.
But you know what, our kids, our kids needed that one and they worked for it and they were disciplined. What did we have, three penalties and that’s something, that’s Pitt football. That’s how we should be all the time and hopefully they learned their lesson like, oh, wow, if only we had three, maybe we had a chance to win the football game.
Q. What did you see in Coleman?
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: You know, he’s played sparingly, but we’ve kind of been playing, with all the tempo and all the 4-5 wide-outs we’ve had out there, we have been playing more nickel the last two weeks just because of the thing, and we’ll see where we go moving forward depending on what the game plan looks like this week. I don’t know what we’ll do.
We had Therran. We had Damarri Mathis who was cramping up a little bit. He started off at the nickel spot and Marquis Williams, also. So we relocated three guys to keep them fresh with the tempo and the amount of running they are doing.
I looked right at Therran, the beginning of that series and said: You know, let’s go, fundamentals, eye control, lock your guy down, and by God there you go. Got to thank that Guy upstairs. He was with us the whole time and those kids deserve it.
Q. You held Dungy to under 50 percent completion, more interceptions than a touchdown; going up against a guy that experienced.
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: It’s a good football team as I said. I thought our defense played lights out. We were put in some bad situations at times, at least three short fields.
And then even, you think about the turnover, Kenny gets smacked in the head, gets his head torn off pretty much and it’s a turnover, on a pass play, that was a sack, Jerry, that was a sack turnover and our kids held him to a field goal. There were some major wins out there as far as our defense played lights out I thought against a good football team.
Q. What about Darrin Hall? At what point did you feel he could have that type of game?
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: Last August I felt like he could. It was just getting the opportunities and getting enough touches — Darrin Hall is a great tailback, too.
Q. You were riding Qadree the whole way. At what point did you want to get Darrin involved and think they could have two 100-yard games between them?
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: Just that’s Coach Powell, rotating those guys through, getting a feel for what they feel like, what they look like and how they are running it and just keeping them fresh.
When you have two great tailbacks — there were some tough yards in there. It wasn’t just big ole holes they were plowing through. Some of those three- and four-yard gains that we were grinding it out to get ten yards. Those were hard runs where you go, God, they did it all by themselves at times. I know we were blocking, but man, it looked like it was five guys on a back running some of those runs, so I can’t wait to watch the tape.
Q. Were you trying to get a time-out after the 44-yard catch or whatever they had?
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: What do you think?
Q. I didn’t see it. I was looking down.
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I was trying to get one. Yeah, just leave it at that.
Q. You were going to challenge it, right?
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, it was a time-out to challenge it.
Q. Did the official say anything to you?
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: Next question. Enough said.
Q. You said you wanted the running backs, the O-line to win it for you on the end. In the last drive on the fourth quarter, were you playing for overtime, the way Alex had kicked today?
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: I wasn’t going to drop back and throw the ball against that front four, the fearsome foursome over there, one of my old linebackers at Northern Illinois is their D-line coach. I think he’s doing a heck of a job with those guys. Just look at the sack numbers. I mean, they are in everybody’s backfield when you watch the tape.
But we’re playing for a field goal, playing for a touchdown. I was playing to win, and I knew our best way of winning is to put the ball on the ground and do what we do best. You know, you’re hoping to pop one of those for a touchdown. You’d rather not go into overtime if you didn’t have to, but we were just going to grind it out — we only had three time-outs, and we were just going to grind it out and go.
Q. What’s it like, left side of your offensive line, really controlling the play; when they know what’s coming and you still run it, what does it say about your team?
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: Dave Borbely, our offensive line coach, starts with that guy and the game planning part of it, just doing what we do and they did a great job of scheming up a little bit and just playing with great technique.
I mean, you’ve got a guy rushes for, what, 194 and 108 and 107. Your offensive dine did some work today and they willed it themselves. They are just like, Coach, just keep running it, we got you. It’s like, okay, that’s ease.
Q. The defense had to come up with the big plays.
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: Our defense played — like I said, defense played good. They played well and then, you know, to finish it off on a p and 10, at the 25-yard line in overtime and get a pick, come on. That’s unbelievable.
Q. [The Wildcat formation.] Was it something that you saw on film that you thought you could use against them or just kind of try it once, it worked ask went back to it?
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: A little bit of both. We have it in every week. Depends on what they are doing and how they are doing it. They were loading the box up. Kenny is out wide so they can cover him man-to-man, congratulations, and you have a running quarterback, so that extra man that a lot of people have with a quarterback that can run like that, and you know, Darrin Hall and Qadree are our quarterbacks here. That’s what it comes down to, numbers in the box.
Q. Talk about Kenny’s performance at quarterback. What did you like?
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: I thought Kenny played solid. There’s a lot of — it’s not like just turn it to the right and hand it off or turn to the left and hand it off. There’s a lot of checks based on the safeties that are rolling and what they are doing coverage-wise. There’s a ton of work. Kenny had a great game, and you know, that’s a good football team.
Q. What was the biggest challenge keeping the guys focused during the lightning delay?
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: What was the biggest challenge? You know, really wasn’t. We talked a lot of football. Wasn’t like lay down and take a nap. But our guys were locked in, and then — they didn’t want to take their pads off. They are: “Coach, I’m good. My pads are good.”
We’re like, “Take those pads off. Get a dry shirt on.” That was the biggest challenge was to get them to take their pads off because those jerseys are so tight. That was the biggest challenge was getting the jerseys back on. It was a team effort. We had everybody pulling jerseys down.
Q. When you see Darrin and Qadree have the kind of days they did today, how much does that potentially change your offensive philosophy moving forward, how do you see yourself focusing —
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZI: Like Georgia Tech or something like that? Run it every time we pass for 12 yards? No, I mean, we are going to do what they are giving us and I don’t know if they even gave us the run today but we willed the run. That was a tough football team to throw. It all depends on who we are playing and what we think up front and what we can do.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

 

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