One thing that No. 25 Pitt has been able to do since Pat Narduzzi took over as head coach is close out games.
That was on display once again on Saturday at Syracuse.
While the defense has closed out a few games to this point, this time it was on the shoulders of the offense.
With the game tied at 20 in the fourth quarter, the Panthers went on a 19-play drive that covered 89 yards and milked 9:20 off the game clock. The end result was a 25-yard field goal from Chris Blewitt as time expired that gave Pitt (6-1, 4-0 ACC) a 23-20 road win. The winning kick from Blewitt was the second game winner in as many weeks.
A big play on the winning drive was a fake punt call that seemed to take the steam out of the Orange defense.
With time winding down, Narduzzi called for a fake punt on fourth down near midfield. Punter Ryan Winslow hit Matt Galambos for 12 yards and a first down. The rest was on the shoulders of Ollison and the right leg of Blewitt.
Running back Qadree Ollison rushed for 103 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 22 carries to pace the offense. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd also had a big day, catching 12 passes for 93 yards. Boyd was all over the field, also carrying the ball six times for 34 yards. In addition, for the second consecutive week, Boyd also completed a pass- a 38-yard completion to Dontez Ford.
For the first time since 2009, Pitt entered a game as a ranked team, but things didn’t go so well early on.
Blewitt gave Pitt an early 3-0 lead with a 33-yard field goal, but the Orange came right back and took a 7-3 lead when Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC) quarterback Eric Dungey hit Ervin Phillips with a 20-yard touchdown pass.
Syracuse, losers of four straight, made it 10-3 with a 23-yard field goal from Cole Murphy as the Pitt defense tightened up near the goal line.
Pitt didn’t take long to answer back as Ollison found the end zone from two yards out to knot the game at 10.
Led by Dungey, who finished the day with 210 yards passing and 38 rushing, the Orange were able to move the ball easily on the Panthers’ defense.
Syracuse took a 17-10 lead when Dungey hit Steve Ishmael with a four-yard touchdown pass late in the first half.
Ishmael had a huge day with seven receptions for 114 yards as he had his way with Avonte Maddox all afternoon.
A big drive for Pitt came at the end of the first half.
Starting with good field position, Panthers’ quarterback ran for 14 yards and then hit Boyd with a 17-yard completion to set up a 30-yard field goal by Blewitt to send Pitt into halftime trailing just 17-13.
Peterman had a decent day, completing 19-of-25 pass attempts for 189 yards and more importantly no turnovers.
A big play came on the Orange’s first play of the second half when Dungey took a big shot and had to leave the game.
Dungey would return, but clearly wasn’t the same as he threw a pair of key second-half interceptions- one each for Lafayette Pitts and Galambos.
The pick by Galambos led to a one-yard touchdown run from Ollison to give Pitt a 20-17 fourth-quarter lead.
Syracuse answered with a 37-yard field goal from Murphy, but the Orange wouldn’t touch the ball again as Pitt methodically marched down the field to set Blewitt up for the game winner.
The win makes the Panthers bowl eligible already.
The Panthers, who improved to 4-0 in ACC play and lead the Coastal Division, will be on a short week as they play host to North Carolina Thursday night at Heinz Field.
Being home will be a welcome thing for the Panthers as five of their seven games to this point have been on the road. Pitt will finish with four home contest to only one on the road.
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