PITTSBURGH- Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett made the most of his Heisman Trophy showcase, throwing for 302 yards and two touchdowns as the 23rd-ranked Panthers topped Clemson 27-17 on Saturday.
Pickett completed 25 of 39 passes to overtake Alex Van Pelt for the most career completions in school history. The fifth-year senior ran for two drive-extending dives late in the fourth quarter after the Tigers had drawn within 10.
Senior linebacker SirVocea Dennis returned an ill-advised shovel pass by Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei 50 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter that gave the Panthers a 14-point lead they never really threatened to give away.
Pitt (6-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) gained firm control of the ACC’s Coastal Division by winning its fourth straight following a stunning home upset loss to Western Michigan last month. Clemson (4-3, 3-2) saw its chances for another Atlantic Division title take a massive hit thanks in large part to an offense that remains very much a problem with Halloween looming.
Uiagalelei passed for just 128 yards and two picks and was briefly benched in favor of backup Taisu Phommachanh in the third quarter after his baffling shovel pass hit Dennis right in the middle of the No. 7 on the front of his jersey.
Phommachanh failed to provide much of a spark, completing just 3 of 7 passes for 23 yards before Uiagalelei returned in the fourth quarter after Sam Scarton’s 43-yard field goal gave the Panthers a 27-10 lead with 9:30 remaining.
Uiagalelei did run for a 6-yard score with 7:56 remaining, but Pickett twice used his legs to turn convert on third downs as the Panthers ran out the clock while a giddy Heinz Field crowd celebrated.
Clemson: The Tigers Will Likely see their long run atop the Atlantic Division end. They are now two games in the loss column behind Wake Forest and N.C. State, which beat the Tigers in overtime last month.
Pitt: The Panthers appear to be the class of the Coastal Division and could have their eyes on something even bigger than the ACC Championship game. They will likely be favored in each of their final five games. Pickett is no longer a darkhorse Heisman candidate either after playing with the kind of tenacity that’s been his trademark during his long career.
Expect the Panthers to climb inside the Top 20 for the first time in head coach Pat Narduzzi‘s seven seasons on the job. Pitt didn’t just beat the Tigers, it may have also shed – at least for now – its reputation of underachieving.
Clemson: Welcomes Florida State (3-4, 2-2) next Saturday. The Tigers have won five straight against the Seminoles with four of the victories coming by at least 10 points.
Pitt: Hosts Miami next Saturday. The Hurricanes have won each of the last three meetings with the Panthers by an average of 12.3 points.