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After 2 crushing defeats on the road, the Pitt Panthers were hoping that some home cooking would help them get back on the right track with the Marshall Thundering Herd being the main course, and it apparently worked as they were able to get the victory in a 43-26 slugfest, but don’t let the score fool you: Pitt had to fight very hard to keep history from repeating itself for a 3rd straight week.

In their losses to Oklahoma State and North Carolina, the Panthers played the dreaded ‘Play Not to Lose’-and they ended up losing both contests when the defense failed to stop the opposing offense on their final drive. They also played conservative on offense and decided to leave the game in the hands of their struggling defense.

But not this game. Apparently Pitt HC Pat Narduzzi decided to trust the arm of QB Nate Peterman late in the 4th quarter as he completed a pass to WR Jester Weah who stepped over his defender en-route to a 54-yard TD extending Pitt’s lead to 37-27. Just imagine if Peterman was trusted to do the same the previous 2 weeks, then Pitt possibly would have a 5-0 record. But nevertheless, the Panthers are now 3-2 (0-1 ACC) and are now done with non-conference play.

While the defense remains a concern, the offense stepped it up and stormed to a 27-0 first half lead. The Problem was, the porous defense got Marshall back in the game as they scored 26 unanswered points in the second half to close Pitt’s lead to 30-26. But Pitt decided to ‘Play to Win.’

Pitt opened the game by driving 8 plays & 75 yards down the field and scored when FB George Aston took it in from 5 yards for the game’s first TD. Unfortunately, K Chris Blewitt missed the extra point, giving the Panthers a 6-0 lead. Pitt would force Marshall to punt after their first drive and would take over at their own 17.

Pitt would then go 83 yards and 7 plays on their next drive and scored again on a 1-yard TD by RB James Conner to give the Panthers a 13-0 lead. Conner’s TD gave him his 13th consecutive, which is a school record. Marshall would then be forced to punt again after Pitt DE Ejuan Price sacked QB Chase Litton.

Pitt went 96 yards on 5 plays on their next drive and scored their 3rd TD of the game when WR Maurice Ffrench took QB Nate Peterman’s pitch and ran it in for 11 yards, extending their lead to 20-0. On Marshall’s next drive, they went nowhere and were forced to punt, giving the ball to Pitt who took over at their own 45 (aided by a 15-yard penalty on PR Avonte Maddox).

The Panthers began the second quarter by driving over 40 yards to the Thundering Herds’ 1-yard line, but were unable to score as Peterman was stopped at the goal line on a 4th-and 1. Marshall took over at their own 2-yard line. Marshall then went nowhere on their next drive, punting the ball to Pitt, who also went nowhere and was forced to punt.

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With 6:06 left in the 2nd Quarter, Marshall took over at their own 34, but once again punted to Pitt. The Panthers then ended their scoring slump when Peterman found WR Tre Tipton for a 15-yard TD pass extending Pitt’s lead to 27-0. The drive covered 7 plays and 81 yards. Marshall then took over as time expired in the first half.

In the 3rd quarter, Marshall began at their own 20 and drove down the field with a mixture of passes and runs that got them deep into Pitt territory and scored when Litton found WR Josh Knight to close Pitt’s lead to 27-7. The drive covered 15 plays 87 yards. But Marshall wasn’t done as the performed an onside kick and recovered the ball on their own 47.

Litton continued to lead Marshall down the field on Pitt and converted on two 4th down opportunities and then they got back into the endzone on an 11-yard TD by RB Anthony Anderson. The drive covered 8 plays and 43 yards. Pitt then responded with a 9 play 73-yard drive that ended with a 20-yard FG by K Chris Blewitt, extending their lead to 30-14.

In the 4th quarter, Marshall took over and quickly scored when Litton found Clark for an 83-yard TD pass closing Pitt’s lead to 30-20(2-point conversion failed). Pitt then went on an impressive drive, but was stalled when Blewitt tried a FG fake which fell incomplete. Marshall took over at their own 38.

Marshall once again took it to Pitt as RB Keion Davis scored from the 1-yard line to close Pitt’s lead to 30-17. The drive covered 12 plays 67 yards. With 4:01, Pitt took over and finally closed out a game as Peterman ditched the conservative play and found Weah for the 54-yard TD, extending their lead to 37-27.

Just in case you thought Pitt was done scoring, the defense added 6 more points as Maddox intercepted Litton’s pass and returned it 33 yards for a TD as time expired. Pitt wins 43-26.

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Weah had a monster game as he caught 7 passes for 176 yards and a TD, proving that Pitt does have a vertical passing game-provided that Narduzzi continues to let Peterman loose. Peterman himself passed for 280 yards and 2 TDs and RB Chantwez Moss had a career game with 97 yards on just 9 carries. Conner had 34 yards and a TD as the RBs rushed for a total of 252 total yards.

For the Thundering Herd, Litton passed for 240 yards and 2 TDs, 147 to WR Clark, who had a TD and RB’s Davis and Anderson combined for the teams’ 124 total rushing yards.

The Panthers will return to ACC play next Saturday as they host Georgia Tech for their Homecoming Game. Here’s hoping that the ‘Home Cooking’ will continue.

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.com

Follow him @urbanmediaRay on Twitter.

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