#23 Pitt Pulls off 27-17 Upset over Clemson
[Pittsburgh,PA] As the Pitt Panthers were preparing to host the Clemson Tigers for the first time in school history, there were many from the local and national media who felt like the Panthers were going to get the win and slay the dragon that’s dominated them in their last two meetings. And there are others, (mostly fans) that felt like Pitt was preparing themselves for another letdown, because history had proven that they had fell short in several critical games. After all, this is a Clemson team that has been in the College Football Playoff every season since 2016 and won 2 National Championships.
Well, the Panthers proved the optimists correct Saturday afternoon as they beat Clemson 27-17 in front of 60,594 fans, a national TV audience (ESPN), Pitt alumni and recruits. It was the perfect opportunity to make a strong impression and Pitt did not disappoint.
“All right, ladies and gentlemen, couldn’t be prouder of our football team just going out there and playing like they did. “Said Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi “That’s a good football team they beat today. Probably should have beat them by another fourteen, to be honest with them. Critical errors.
First off, I want to thank the crowd out there today. They were outstanding. The Panther Pitt (student section), I’m not sure if I’ve seen them like that. Stayed all four quarters. Said we needed them to get it done. They take part in this win. It’s everybody involved. It takes everybody. I was really proud of that crowd.”
Senior Pitt QB Kenny Pickett was also in the spotlight, and he continued to show why he deserves Heisman Trophy consideration as he slayed his personal dragons vs. Clemson as he led Pitt to victory after 2 consecutive losses (and one of them, an 8-yard performance in the 2018 ACC Championship Game) with a 35-39, 302-yard, 2 TD performance.
“Kenny, one of the reasons Kenny came back. They were getting pressured. I don’t think they ran the same blitz twice.” Said Narduzzi “It was a different blitz after different blitz after different blitz, from three down and four down. Kenny hung in there. Again, first of all, he made good decisions with the ball. Didn’t throw it to them, which is critical. That’s what he had done down there last year. But that’s a good defense. He played really well.”
Pickett’s 2 TDs went to WRs Jordan Addison (5 rec 84 yards) and Taysir Mack (3 Rec, 59 yards). After training 7-0, Pickett found Addison for the tying score and the Mack TD was the result of Narduzzi’s boldness to go for it on 4th down instead of settling for a FG. Such a decision made the Pitt head coach and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple look like geniuses.
“We go back and forth on the headphones. Sometimes listens, sometimes doesn’t. I love Coach Whip We had no doubt we were going to go for it. He felt good with his play call. You have to ride with the OC. If he feels good, we go. If he’s like, ‘Punt it,’ we punt it.”-Said Narduzzi.
Pitt’s running game was also impressive as they collectively ran for 162 yards, led by first-year RB Rodney Hammond Jr. s 64 on only 11 carries-all in the second half.
And on defense, the fact that the Panthers only surrendered 17 points to the Tigers truly told the story. They were not perfect, but they kept the pressure on QBs DJ Uiagalelei and Talsun Phommachanh, getting a sack and 2 interceptions.
Pitt CB Damarri Mathis got the first interception off Uiagalelei as it ended a potential scoring drive, and LB SirVocea got the second one as he not only intercepted a Uiagalelei shovel-pass, but he was also able to return it 50 yards for a TD.
“I would say when SirVocea (Dennis) intercepted that shovel pass for a touchdown, there was a little momentum there, a big-time play. Put their quarterback on the bench. That was a turning point, I think.”-Said Narduzzi.
The Panthers final points came on 2 Sam Scarton field goals.
The Clemson scoring came on a 1-yard rush TD by RB Phil Mafaha Uiagalelei 6 Yd TD Run and a B.T. Potter field goal.
When Pitt lost to Western Michigan a week ago, the fans were ready to give up on them and the media continued to call them underachievers and calling for Narduzzi’s head. Now that they have a statement win over Clemson, there has been talk about Pitt making the ACC Championship Game for the 2nd time in 4 years and an strong (outside) possibility of a College Football Playoff berth.
But Pitt’s immediate focus is on their next opponent, which are the Miami Hurricanes.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our football team, couldn’t be happier with the city of Pittsburgh, what they did for us today. We need them to come out for us next week against Miami.”-Said Narduzzi.
Notes: Addison & RB Israel Abanikanda both left the game due to injuries…Pitt’s 2021 class (which included former head coach Jackie Sherrill, RB Curtis Martin, the Late RB Craig ‘Ironhead’ Heyward, PG Brandin Knight) were honored during the game.
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