By Ray Porter Jr.
PITTSBURGH, PA–The Pitt Panthers football team knew they were going to be in for a challenge as the #4 ranked Florida State Seminoles rolled into town for a 3:30 matchup. After all, Florida State was undefeated, and their motivation was to not only clinch a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship Game (with no more Divisions) but remain eligible for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
And although the Panthers put up a valiant fight for most of the game, they ended up falling 24-7 to the Seminoles, who would improve to 9-0 and earn a spot in the ACC Championship Game.
“First thing I’ll say is just proud of the effort our kids gave out there today. They played their tails off. We made way too many mistakes,” said Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi. “When you look at it, it’s more of what we — the same thing as last week. More of what we did, not what they did. We shoot ourselves in the foot at times with penalties, 11 penalties. Maybe only one or two on defense. Our defense played their tails off. They’re on the field for 35 minutes, so we lost the time of possession by ten minutes again today.”
It was truly Pitt’s defense that kept the team in the game vs. Florida State in the first half as they recovered a fumble, forced a turnover on downs, and several punts. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t capitalize until the 2nd quarter when QB Christian Veilleux (15/35, 244 yards, TD, INT) found WR Kunta Mumfield (3 rec, 99 yards)on what appeared to be an 82-yard TD, but although it was 81 yards, Mumfield had the ball stripped away from him as he fell out of bounds and with the ball laying in the end zone. The Seminoles recovered for a Touchback.
But Veilleux did get the Panthers in the end zone on their next drive as he found WR Bub Means (7 rec, 98 yards) for a 9-yard TD and a 7-0 lead. But it was very short-lived as the Seminoles would then go on a 10-play 75-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard TD by QB Jordan Travis (22/36, 360 yards, TD) They would then take a 10-7 lead on a Ryan Fitzgerald FG. The Panthers had a good opportunity to tie the game with a FG on their own, but a penalty put them out of FG range.
“It’s hard to win football games when you only put 7 points on the board,” said Narduzzi. “We (Pitt offense) gave up 13 points. You know, you’re talking about a 20 to 24 game with the No. 4 team in the country on the field, and we just didn’t play clean enough, disciplined enough to overcome those things. But you look at two minutes before the half, we have an opportunity to kick a field goal, and we get a holding call (on) Branson…it sounds like he threw him to the ground. I don’t know what happened, but unnecessary.”
In the second half, it was all Florida State as they would end up scoring 14 unanswered points to seal the game. WR Ja’Khi Douglas (6 rec, 115 yards) would catch a 22-yard reception thrown by Travis, and RB Trey Benson (9 carries, 97 yards) scored on a 55-yard TD run. What also hurt the Panthers is that they were flagged 11 times for 91 yards, including a pair of calls that took away scoring opportunities, and turned it over three times.
“Then, in the second half, we got a penalty on the sideline when our quarterback got hit late cutting out of bounds,” said Narduzzi “Whatever, guys were talking. I’ve never seen a penalty called on the sideline when there’s 40 guys on the sideline, but you have to overcome all those things. You have to shut your mouth and play the game of football.”
The Panthers (2-7, 1-4 ACC) will now prepare to hit the road with hopes of ending their 3-game losing streak against Syracuse (4-5, 0-5 ACC) next Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
“Like I said, it starts with me. Obviously didn’t coach good enough this week to get it done. We’ll regroup. We have three games to go, three winnable games.” Said Narduzzi. “We played two really good football teams the last two weeks, top 15 programs, we’ve been inches away from making some things happen, and we didn’t get it done, but it’s on me.”
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