One week after a season (and program) transforming win on the road versus Clemson, there would be no let down for the Panthers against the last place Blue Devils.
James Conner and Quadree Henderson scored 63 seconds apart early in the 3rd quarter, Conner on a 1-yard touchdown run and Quadree Henderson on a 65-yard punt return, to blow the game open and put Pitt ahead 42-14.
And the rout was on.
The Panthers were able to bring in the backups mid-way through the 4th quarter leading 49-14.
Qadree Ollison’s 2-yard touchdown run capped off the Panthers’ dominating 56-14 victory.
Conner, who became the ACC’s all-time touchdown leader after his second of the game, scored on a pair of 1-yard runs and broke 100-yards despite being held out for the end of the first half.
The game was a welcome back party for Quadree Henderson. Held largely in check the past three games, Henderson scored on a 52-yard jet sweep in the 2nd quarter, as well as the afformentioned 65-yard punt return, his 4th return TD of the season (3 KO, 1 PR).
Pitt’s defense had its best day since the opener against Villanova, sacking Duke quarterback Daniel Johns 5 times and allowing only 243 yards through the air.
The Pitt defense started strong, forcing a fumble on the opening drive of the game. Three plays later, Nathan Peterman found Dontez Ford uncovered in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown.
Duke quickly countered with a touchdown of their own, driving 59 yards in two minutes for the score, a 6-yard touchdown pass from Johns to Chris Taylor.
But James Conner and the offense answered right back. Conner racked up 37 yards on the ground as Pitt drove down the field. Conner would finish the drive a 1-yard TD to make it 14-7.
After forcing the Blue Devils into consecutive punts, the Panthers got the ball back.
The Panthers, who had moved away from the jet sweeps that were such a big part of the offense early in the season, brought it back in to the fold today. 52 seconds into the second quarter, Quadree Henderson took the ball and raced around the right side for a 52-yard touchdown run to make it 21-7 Pitt.
A potential Pitt blow out was put on (temporary) hold after the Duke defense intercepted a bad Nathan Peterman throw and returned it for a touchdown.
It would be the last time the Blue Devils would find the end zone.
Atoning for his (rare) mistake, Peterman found Jester Weah for a 56- yard strike on Pitt’s next possession, pushing the Panthers to a 28-14 lead.
Both defenses stiffened, until Duke was able to find some life with just over two minutes left in the half.
But time was the enemy and the Duke drive stalled deep in Panther territory. Duke kicker AJ Reed, only 3/8 on the season, missed a 31 yard field goal and the Panthers went into halftime up 28-14.