Possessing a dynamic offense has rarely — if ever — been a problem for the Pitt Panthers (7-4) this season. And Saturday, Pitt rang up 56 points in a thorough 56-14 waxing of the Duke Blue Devils (4-7) in a game that, for once, didn’t come down to the wire.
A week after a huge upset of the then-No. 2 Clemson Tigers, the Panthers’ defense came out the chute with decidedly more bite than usual. On the second play from scrimmage, linebacker Oluwaseun Idowu punched the ball out of running back Shaun Wilson’s grasp, and Matt Galambos recovered at the Duke 17-yard-line.
Pitt was off to the races.
On that drive, facing a 3rd and 9, Panthers quarterback Nate Peterman went up top to receiver Dontez Ford for a 16 yard score, Ford’s first of the season.
While Duke responded with a touchdown toss of its, Pitt answered back and continued to pick up speed. Running back James Conner churned out 37 yards and a touchdown on the drive to jump back on top, 14-7. And the Panthers stretched the lead further to 21-7 when wideout Quadree Henderson burned a jet sweep and took it 52 yards to the house.
It looked close to cruise-control time for the Panthers when what could have been a potential disaster struck. Peterman’s throw to Scott Orndoff was under cut and was taken for a pick-six by cornerback Byron Fields, giving Duke new life and trimming Pitt’s lead to seven points, 21-14.
But with the game suddenly a close contest once again Pitt quickly regained its composure. Jester Weah streaked between two Blue Devil defenders before hauling in a deep ball and sprinting 56 yards to the endzone.
After Duke missed a field goal to end the first half (a last-second try that was shanked wide right), Pitt then seized momentum to start the second half. Weah hauled in another bomb, outmuscling — and then bowling over — a Duke defender to the 1-yard line. Conner carried it the final yard, plunging in for his second touchdown of the game to extend the Panthers’ lead to 35-14.
Duke failed to gain a yard on its ensuing drive, going three and out.
On the Blue Devils’ punt, lighting struck again. Henderson, Pitt’s electric return man, zoomed up the right sideline for a 65 yard touchdown return. Pushing the score to 42-14, Henderson’s score effectively ended the competitive portion of the game. It was Henderson’s fourth score on a return this year, the three others coming on kickoff returns.
Orndoff tacked on a 48-yard touchdown jaunt, and Qadree Ollison grooved in for a 2-yard score, topping the 50-point plateau for the Panthers.
Peterman earned his early exit in the fourth quarter, finishing the day 11/18 for 237 yards and with three touchdowns. Conner topped 100 yards and ended up with two touchdowns on 14 carries.
Up next, Pitt will host the Syracuse Orange in the Panthers’ season finale. After another impressive victory and sitting pretty at 7-4, Pitt fans can start day-dreaming about bowl game destinations.
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