Van Dyke outduels Pickett, Miami edges No. 17 Pitt 38-34

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH – Tyler Van Dyke was buried on the Miami depth chart two months ago. The redshirt freshman tried to stay patient, repeating to himself over and over that his time would come.

Consider it here.

Brilliant at the start and gutty at the finish, Van Dyke threw for 426 yards and three touchdowns to outduel Heisman Trophy candidate Kenny Pickett as the Hurricanes edged No. 17 Pittsburgh 38-34 on Saturday.

While Pickett threw for a school-record 519 yards, Van Dyke nearly matched him while completing 32 of 42 passes for the three scores and an interception as Miami (4-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) defeated a ranked opponent for a second straight week.

“He’s a freshman, but he’s making veteran plays out there,” tight end Will Mallory said of Van Dyke.

With more than just his arm.

While Van Dyke hit Mallory for a 57-yard touchdown off a reverse flea-flicker in the first quarter, he also found himself diving at a loose ball in the final minutes after a fumble by Mallory threatened to cost Miami a first down and potentially the game.

Mallory could only watch as the ball squirted loose and went backward toward the Miami sideline. Van Dyke rushed over in an attempt to knock it out of bounds. Chaos briefly ensued before officials ruled the ball out. The Hurricanes retained possession, allowing Van Dyke to kneel down three times.

Its season on the brink of collapse and coach Manny Diaz‘s grasp on his job tenuous at best after narrow losses to Virginia and North Carolina, Miami has responded with taut victories over the Wolfpack and Panthers.

“If we continue to play with the spirit and the fight that we have (we’ll be fine),” Diaz said. “It’s hard to fix fight if we don’t have, and we have it in abundance.”

So does Pickett.

The senior continued to take over the Pitt record book. His 519 yards passing set a Pitt single-game mark on a day he also broke Hall of Famer Dan Marino’s school record for career touchdowns responsible for (now at 84) and Alex Van Pelt’s record for career total offense.

“He is that guy,” Diaz said of Pickett. “He is special.”

But not infallible. Pickett completed 39 of 55 passes and three scores but also tossed his second and third interceptions of the season. Both were costly.

The first – by Miami’s Tyrique Stevenson in the second quarter – led to a Jaylan Knighton 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Hurricanes a 31-17 halftime lead. The second – by freshman safety James Williams – came with 4:07 to play and Pitt driving for a go-ahead touchdown. Pickett threw behind star wide receiver Jordan Addison and Williams made a diving grab at the Miami 4.

Pickett, who has mounted a Heisman Trophy campaign that’s morphed from unlikely to legitimate over the last two months, blamed miscommunication on the Williams pick.

Pitt (6-2, 3-1) remains in control of its destiny in the ACC Coastal Division but any remote shot at crashing the College Football Playoff is long gone.

“Never had a lead in the game, and I thought we were going to take it in the fourth quarter and (we) fell short at the end,” Panther coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Tough one to swallow, but we will bounce back. All our goals are still in front of us. Still disappointing.”

PITT NOT SO SPECIAL

Pitt – which trailed by 14 before the game was 10 minutes old – was threatening to draw even early in the fourth quarter when it faced third-and-goal from the Miami 5.

Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple called a version of the “Pitt Special” that led to an upset of Central Florida in 2019. The trick play calls for a direct snap to a position player while Pickett goes in motion. Tight end Lucas Krull took the snap but Pickett was covered. Krull made two more reads before throwing incomplete in the back of the end zone.

The Panthers settled for a field goal instead to draw within four. They got no closer.

“Fourth-and-5 is a long one,” Narduzzi said. “We wanted to get three there and go.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Miami: Van Dyke continues to improve by the week. Save for a fourth-quarter interception that doubled as an “arm punt,” Van Dyke was every bit Pickett’s equal. The Hurricanes will need him to continue to light it up while a very young defense searches for an identity.

Pitt: If Pickett finishes the season with numbers that deserve Heisman consideration, it might be due to a defense that remains erratic. A week after handling Clemson, the Panthers gave up 492 yards and looked very much like the unit that allowed 517 yards in a home loss to Western Michigan in September.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Panthers won’t improve on the program’s highest in-season ranking since 2009 and might need a little help to stay in the polls at all.

UP NEXT

Miami: Visits Georgia Tech next Saturday.

Pitt: Travels to Duke next Saturday.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.