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.”
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.
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.
Miami: Visits Georgia Tech next Saturday.
Pitt: Travels to Duke next Saturday.