Pitt Falls to Penn State 17-10

[State College, Pa] Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi joked before the 100th meeting between the Panthers and 13th- ranked Penn State that the next time the rivals face off, he’ll either be retired or ”in a coffin.” That’s a long time to live with Saturday’s heartbreaking defeat after the Nittany Lions escape with a 17-10 win.

Journey Brown ran for 109 yards and a touchdown for Penn State (3-0) and Noah Cain’s 13-yard third-quarter sprint to the end zone gave Penn State the lead for good. Sean Clifford completed 14 of 30 passes for 222 yards while spending most of the afternoon under heavy duress.

Pitt’s Kenny Pickett threw for a career-high 372 yards, Junior wide receiver Taysir Mack finished with a career-high 12 receptions (for 125 yards) and Junior running back A.J. Davis produced career-high receiving numbers, compiling seven receptions for 94 yards, both personal bests. but Penn State held firm when it mattered.

The Panthers had first-and-goal at the Penn State 1 midway through the fourth quarter. Two passes and a run went nowhere, and Narduzzi opted to kick, despite trailing by seven. Alex Kessman’s miss allowed the Nittany Lions to bleed the clock a bit. Pitt drove from its 16 to the Penn State 26 in the final seconds, but Pickett’s 51st and final pass attempt smacked off a sea of hands in the end zone and fell incomplete to let Penn State improve to 53-43-4 in the series.

Narduzzi said this about the 4th-and-1 call “I have no regrets with the call at all. I really don’t. And I look back and we had two plays in that series — my regret is that we didn’t score in one of those three plays. That’s the regret. And my regret is we didn’t execute them properly, and our kids know, our coaches know.”

A rivalry that dates back to 1893 is going on indefinite hiatus. The uncertain future provided a sense of finality, one Narduzzi didn’t run from. He stressed to his players the outcome will give the winner bragging rights for years and possibly forever.

While Pitt fought gamely – overcoming a slow start following a 30-minute weather delay to take a 10-7 lead – the Panthers allowed Penn State to get into a rhythm late in the first half. Jordan Stout’s school-record 57-yard field goal tied it at 10 going into the break.

Using the no huddle to help slow the Panther defense, Clifford led Penn State 88 yards in 13 plays, the last Cain’s burst up the middle that put Penn State in front to stay.

Barely.

THE TAKEAWAY

Pitt: Five seasons into his tenure, the swaggering, aggressive defensive style Narduzzi cultivated during his long run as an assistant at Michigan State has finally become a part of the culture at Pitt. The secondary may be the best in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the defensive line looks capable even with starters Rashad Weaver and Keyshon Camp both done for the season with knee injuries. Sophomore safety Paris Ford finished with a team and career-high 11 tackles and Sophomore defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman posted a career-high six tackles and added 1.5 sacks. Twyman is Pitt’s sack leader on the young season with 4.5.

Penn State: Things didn’t come quite so easily for the Nittany Lions after a pair of blowouts to open the season. Yet Clifford proved his toughness while taking a pounding and – just as importantly – took care of the ball.

UP NEXT

Pitt: Welcomes No. 17 UCF to Heinz Field next Saturday. The Golden Knights drilled the Panthers 45-14 last year in Orlando.

Penn State: Off next week then opens Big Ten play by traveling to Maryland on Friday, Sept. 27. The Nittany Lions have beaten the Terrapins by a combined 104-6.

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.com

Follow him @urbanmediaRay on twitter

www.PittsburghPanthers.com

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