Pitt Suffers 31-21 Peach Bowl Loss

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MSU Defenders Sacking Pitt Back up QB Beville ( Phtoto Credit : Vince Butts-UMT Sports)

             #13 Pitt Suffers 31-21 Peach Bowl Loss to #11 Michigan State 

It was expected that Pitt Panthers QB Kenny Pickett would not be playing in the Chick Fila Peach Bowl, due to opting out and preparing for the NFL Draft, but Pitt did not expect Pickett’s backup-QB Nick Patti to not play either as he broke his collarbone on his 16-yard TD run. Although third string QB Davis Beville played his best, it was not enough as the Panthers fell to the Michigan State Spartans 31-21 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

SPARTY ( Photo Credit Vince Butts UMT-Sports)

“Obviously not the way we wanted to finish up the season,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “It’s never easy. Kids played their tails off. Didn’t give up at all. But not the way you wanted your seniors to go out.”

Beville, a sophomore who threw only four passes and played in only two regular-season games passed for 149 yards (14/18) and a TD. But with 22 seconds left, he threw a pass that was intercepted by Spartans LB Cal Haladay and returned for a 78-yard TD. Had the drive continued, the Panthers would have had an excellent chance to either score the winning TD or kick a game- tying FG.

What is even more heartbreaking for the Panthers is that they were leading 21-10 after 3 quarters and seemed in control of the game, but instead Pitt suffered their first New Years Six Bowl loss since 2004 and finish the season 11-3.

(Photo Credit Vince Butts-UMT Sports)

Beville’s 4-yard TD pass to WR Jared Wayne gave Pitt a 14-10 lead before halftime, and LB Cam Bright’s 26-yard fumble recovery for a TD seemed enough for Pitt to get the win, but the Spartans had other ideas as they scored 21 unanswered points in the 4th quarter, led by QB Payton Thorne’s TD passes to Connor Heyward and WR Jaylen Reed and the interception return by Haliday, while it seemed like the Panthers offense either ran out of gas or had conservative play calling.

Whatever the reason, it did not reflect a unit that averaged 43 points per game and was ranked fifth in the nation. Pitt’s success this season came because of the offense outscoring the other team and playing to win. Unfortunately, in the fourth quarter, they played not to lose, and it proved costly.

Michigan State Quarterback Peyton Thorne (Photo Credit : Vince Butts- UMT Sports )

After Thorne found Reed for the game’s first score, Patti led the Panthers on a 12 play, 75-yard drive that ended when he ran for 16-yard TD. But once he got up, he grabbed his shoulder and eventually was escorted to the locker room. “Nick Patti broke his collarbone” Said Narduzzi “He’ll get that fixed tomorrow. He wanted to go back in and play. But our doctors weren’t going to let him do that.”

Beville did all that he could after being pressed into service. But he and the Panthers were only able to get 7 points on 9 drives. “Davis did a great job, as good as you expect a third-team quarterback to do,” said Narduzzi. “Wasn’t good enough to win the football game.” The Spartans pass rush were truly a challenge to Pitt’s offensive line and ended up sacking Beville 5 times.

Spartan Defense with one of its 5 sacks of Pitt QB Davis Beville ( Photo Credit Vince Butts -UMT Sports)

“There were a lot of four-man pressures. They just didn’t play well enough.” Said Narduzzi. “When you have a second or third-string quarterback, the OL has to step up.”

It was not a successful night on the ground for the Panthers Vincent Davis led with 43 yards and Israel Abanikanda and Rodney Hammond Jr. had a combined 36 yards. But Pitt still outrushed the Spartans 104-56.

Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison (Named the nation’s top WR) led the Panthers with 114 yards on 7 catches, and his 52-yarder set up Beville’s only TD pass to Wayne, but the rest of Pitt’s receivers combined for 56 yards.

Thorne shook off his struggles and finished passing for 354 yards and 3 TDs and 1 interception. Reed’s 80 yards and 2 TDs earned him Peach Bowl Offensive MVP honors and Haladay earned him the Defensive MVP.

As stinging as this loss is to the Panthers, it certainly does not dampen a very historic 2021 season which included their first 11-win season for only the fifth time in school history (and first since 1981), their 2nd ACC Coastal Division Championship and their first-ever ACC Conference Championship. Plus, they were #13 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, Pickett was a Heisman Trophy Finalist and Addison was College Football’s Top WR.

 

 

 

“We got a lot coming back. We’ll start the work tomorrow towards an ACC championship for next year. That’s the goal. That’s the standard that we have,” said Narduzzi. “It’s not easy. But that’s the ballgame. We haven’t lost for a while. Our kids have a lot of confidence. So, it hurts. They’re hurting. They’re frustrated. A lot of tears in that locker room. They care and they fought. I love every one of those guys in there. They fought their tails off. I’d go to war with them any day. There’s never been any quit. It takes years to get what we got. We got a championship now. Now we have to try for a repeat.”

Notes: Pitt WR coach Brennan Marion has told his players that he’s accepted a job at Texas to become WRs coach/Pass Game Coordinator.

Ray Porter Jr July 2021

Please e-mail Ray at rayporterjr72@gmail.com

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