Pitt is it: No. 23 Panthers top reeling Clemson 27-17

Ken Ruinard / USA TODAY Network / USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.

THE TAKEAWAY

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.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

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.

UP NEXT

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.

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.