After their shocking 43-42 victory vs. then #2 Clemson, many wondered if the Pitt Panthers next game would be a ‘trap game’ meaning, that they would be in store for a letdown against a so-called lesser opponent in the Duke Blue Devils. One thing for sure, the Panthers know all too well from that Clemson win not to ever take a team for granted, regardless of the record. And after all, Duke had a huge upset of their own when they beat nationally-ranked North Carolina 28-27.
One thing that success breeds is confidence and not the arrogance that can lead to a letdown, and the Panthers allowed last week’s win to fuel their fire as they defeated the Blue Devils 56-14 at Heinz Field.
The Panthers 56 points were obviously a result of their offense who had their strongest output of this 2016 season, but the defense was also stellar as they only gave up one touchdown, a week after giving up 42 and two weeks after giving up 51 to the Miami Hurricanes. The Bowl-bound Panthers are have secured their second-straight winning season with a 7-4 record and are now 4-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division.
Pitt strikes first with a 19-yard TD pass from QB Nate Peterman to WR Dontez Ford. 7-0 Panthers. The drive took place after the Panthers recovered a fumble recovery on Duke’s first drive. Duke Immediately struck back on a 5-play-59-yard drive that was capped with 9-yard TD pass from QB Daniel Jones to WR Chris Taylor, tying the game at 7. Then the Panthers strike back on an 8 play 64-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard TD run by RB James Conner, giving Pitt a 14-7 lead.
On the next drive, Duke failed to convert, and Punted the ball back to Pitt, who also failed to convert. Duke took over at their own 22. They went nowhere, punted the ball back to Pitt who extended their lead to 21-7 when WR Quadree Henderson took the snap and ran it 52 yards for the TD. Duke does nothing on their next drive as Pitt took over at their own 42.
Pitt then took over, but 2 dropped passes forced them to punt the ball back to Duke who took over at their own 11. Duke also failed to convert and once again punted the ball back to Pitt who took over at their own 21. On their 3rd play, Peterman made his first mistake as his pass got intercepted by Duke’s Fields who returned it 36-yards for the TD, closing Pitt’s lead to 21-14.
6 plays and 75 yards later, Pitt extended their lead when Peterman redeemed himself and found WR Jester Weah for a 56-yard TD extending their lead to 28-14. On the final play of the first half, Duke attemped a 31-yard FG went wide right.
Pitt opened the 2nd half by driving 75 yards on 5 plays ending with a 1-yard TD from Conner, his second of the game. This TD gave him 52 for his career, setting a new ACC record. After Duke failed to convert on their drive, they punted the ball to Henderson who made them pay by returning it 65 yards for the TD, extending Pitt’s lead to 42-14. On Duke’s next drive, they went nowhere and punted the ball back to Pitt who took over, failed to convert and punted the ball back to Duke who took over at their own 20.
Duke finished the 3rd quarter and began the 4th quarter with the ball, but ended up turning the ball over on downs. Pitt would get the ball and would score again when Peterman found TE Scott Orndoff for 48-yard TD extending Pitt’s lead to 49-14. The Panthers would get the ball back on after fumbling the ball on Duke’s kickoff return. Pitt would add another when backup RB Quadree Ollison would score from the 2 to extend Pitt’s lead to 56-14, which was the final score.
Peterman passed for 237 yards with 3 touchdowns and the interception. Conner rushed for 101 yards and 2 scores and Weah had 2 catches for 95 yards and a score. For the Blue Devils, Jones passed for 243 yards and a TD and WR TJ Rahming caught 10 passes for 110 yards.
Ray’s Take: I love games like this. I think that the opposition should be destroyed on the field of play and Pitt did just that. They scored on almost every offensive drive and did all they could to keep the Blue Devils out of the game. I like the level of confidence that Peterman is on right now. Clearly that win vs. Clemson has fueled his fire. Another impressive showing by Conner as well as he looked like Jerome Bettis out there. If you would’ve told me that Pitt’s defense would only give up 14 points, then I would’ve asked you if you needed help. The defense also looked stronger after that opening drive. And yes, I agree that Duke’s offense isn’t as sharp as the preveious teams that Pitt’s faced, but that’s not Pitt’s problem.
Looking Ahead: The Panthers will finish their regular season schedule next Saturday as they host the Syracuse Orange at Heinz Field.