Late field goal puts Pitt over No. 18 UCLA 37-35 in Sun Bowl

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EL PASO, Texas — Ben Sauls kicked five field goals, including a 47-yarder in the final seconds, and Pitt beat No. 18 UCLA 37-35 in a back-and-forth Sun Bowl on Friday.

The Panthers (9-4), playing without five starters who opted out of the game, took advantage of five UCLA turnovers, including four interceptions.

“We were down a few guys and just found a way to win a football game,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “One way or another, our guys found a way to get it done. I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

Sauls, who was named the game’s Special Teams MVP, got his first start a year ago.

“Flip it a year from then and we’re kicking game-winners and going 5 for 5,” Sauls said. “You are what you tell yourself. And at the end of the day, I really think I’m a decent kicker.”

UCLA (9-4) grabbed a 35-34 lead on T.J. Harden’s 8-yard touchdown run with 34 seconds remaining. The late scoring drive started at the UCLA 25-yard line with less than two minutes left, and was keyed by a 34-yard run by Harden.

“I thought both teams played their hearts out,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “It was a heck of a game.”

Pitt quarterback Nick Patti had completions of 18 yards to Jared Wayne and 17 yards to Bub Means on the ensuing drive. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Patti scrambled for 11 yards to the UCLA 29-yard line. After another spike with 10 seconds left, Sauls came on to kick the game-winner.

Sophomore Rodney Hammond Jr., the game’s MVP, rushed for 89 yards and two TDs for the Panthers, who were without running back Israel Abanikanda, the nation’s leader in total TDs with 22.

The Bruins, who led 21-14 at halftime, played without star senior running back Zach Charbonnet. Harden finished with 111 yards on 11 carries.

UCLA was in control after Jaylin Davies intercepted Patti and returned it 52 yards to make it 28-14 with 8:45 to go in the third quarter. But Pitt responded with 20 straight points.

UCLA senior Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who was injured and didn’t return to the game after throwing an interception early in the fourth, threw for 271 yards on 16-of-24 passing. He had three interceptions, and Ethan Garbers also threw an interception on the game’s final play.

Pitt got picks from Tylar Wiltz, Javon McIntyre, Bengally Kamara and M.J. Devonshire, and added a fumble recovery on a kickoff.

THE TAKEAWAY

Pitt: The Panthers came into the game with a top-20 defense and a top-10 run defense, and that defense showed up in a big way, limiting UCLA to 141 yards rushing and forcing five Bruins turnovers.

UCLA: Turnovers and special teams hurt the Bruins. Thompson-Robinson threw three interceptions for only the second time this season – the other was a 48-45 loss to Southern California. UCLA had consecutive misplayed kickoff returns in the fourth quarter. The first was a fumbled kick that the Panthers turned into a field goal and a 31-28 lead. The second pinned the Bruins at their own 5-yard line and led to a punt and a Pitt field goal.

LOOKING AHEAD

Pitt: Since Kedon Slovis transferred to BYU and Patti is a senior, the Panthers will look to either transfer Phil Jurkovec, a three-year starter from Boston College, or freshman Nate Yarnell as next year’s starter.

UCLA: The Bruins have to replace a lot of offense, but they brought in QB prospect Dante Moore from Detroit, a heralded recruit who originally committed to Oregon. He is expected to compete with transfer Collin Schlee from Kent State and Garbers. At running back, former Army standout Anthony Adkins has transferred to UCLA. He’ll compete with Harden and redshirt junior Keegan Jones, who had 20 yards on 7 carries.

UP NEXT

Pitt: Begins 2023 season Sept. 2 at home against Wofford.

UCLA: Begins 2023 season Sept. 2 at home against Coastal Carolina.

Clemson gives raises, contract extensions to staff

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s board of trustees approved raises for special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Mike Reed and defensive tackles coach Nick Eason.

Reed and Eason also received one-year extensions keeping them tied to the Tigers through Jan. 31, 2026.

Reed, who’s been with the Tigers since 2013, had his yearly salary increased $50,000 to $800,000. Eason, the former Clemson standout defensive lineman, joined the staff this past season. He also had his compensation upped by $50,000 to $800,000.

Seven other assistants were given one-year extensions by the trustees’ compensation committee, but without a raise in salary.

Co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn had their contracts extended through Jan. 31, 2026.

Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, tight ends coach Kyle Richardson, offensive line coach Thomas Austin, running backs coach C.J. Spiller and wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham all got one-year extensions through Jan. 31, 2025.

New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley last month received a three-year contract at $1.75 million per season.

Clemson will pay its 10 on-field assistants $7.475 million this season, an increase of $925,000 from the total for 2022.

The Tigers went 11-3 last season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

South Carolina’s Beamer suspends three freshmen from program

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said freshmen Monteque Rhames II, Anthony Rose and Cameron Upshaw were suspended from the football program.

There was no reason given for the suspensions in the school’s statement Friday. Online records showed Rhames, 18, was booked last night and was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on charges of carrying weapons on school property and obstructing justice.

“Our student-athletes know what is expected of them,” Beamer said. “They know that both the university and the football program will hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.”

None of the three have played for the Gamecocks.

Rose is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back from Miami who enrolled in January 2022 and redshirted this season. Rhames and Upshaw were part of South Carolina’s latest recruiting class and enrolled last month.

Rhames is a 6-5, 235-pound defensive lineman from Sumter and Upshaw is a 6-2, 193-pound safety from Perry, Florida.