CLEMSON, S.C. – On a crisp fall afternoon in Death Valley, the Pittsburgh Panthers could not stop Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence from eviscerating them.
In the final home game for the projected No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, Lawrence showed off his mastery of the quarterback position. He often evaded a defense that leads the nation in sacks and tackles-for-loss, he delivered precise strikes down the field for big plays and orchestrated an offense that outplayed and outsmarted Pitt all afternoon.
Lawrence passed for 403 yards and two touchdowns as the No. 4 Tigers pummeled the Panthers 52-17 on Frank Howard Field at Memorial Stadium, in front of an announced crowd of 18,819 mostly masked fans.
Saturday marked the first time Clemson (8-1; 7-1 ACC) and Pitt (5-5; 4-5 ACC) had met since the 2018 ACC Championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina. And just like on that December day, the Tigers outplayed the Panthers in almost every facet of the game.
Lawrence began the game efficiently, completing 12 of his first 16 passes for 208 yards. He found wideout EJ Williams in the left corner of the endzone on a red-zone fade for the first touchdown of the game. Minutes later, he took the top off of Pitt’s defense, launching a bomb to wide receiver Cornell Powell, who skipped away from A.J. Woods and into paydirt.
D.J. Uiagalelei relieved Lawrence at the start of the fourth quarter.
While Clemson’s offense was superb, it was aided by a stingy and opportunistic defense. In the first quarter alone, the Tigers picked off Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett three times. The Panthers were forced into three-and-outs on their other three possessions in the opening period, helping Clemson build a comfortable 31-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
Pitt’s first score didn’t come until around the nine-minute mark in the second quarter. The Panthers settled for a 23-yard Alex Kessman field goal as they trailed by four possessions. Pitt found the end-zone just before halftime, with Pickett finding freshman Jordan Addison for an 18-yard score.
Pickett finished the day with 209 passing yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. He registered 10 carries but did not finish with positive yards. Clemson sacked him six times.
The Panthers finished the day going 4-of-17 on third down conversions, turned the ball over five times and had possession for just about 23 minutes. It was the second straight game that Pitt was missing three starters along the offensive line due to COVID-19 protocols, and the Panthers managed to gain a disappointing 235 yards of total offense.
Defensively, Pitt sacked Lawrence just three times and registered only five total tackles behind the line of scrimmage, about half of their per-game average. Additionally, starting strong safety Brandon Hill was disqualified at the end of the first quarter for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Lawrence.
It was also probably the final home game for Clemson running back Travis Etienne, who – like Lawrence – is expected to be a first round pick next spring. Both juniors were honored as part of Clemson’s senior day festivities. Etienne ended the day with 78 yards of total offense and two touchdowns.
Pitt needed to be sharp and stout to pull off an improbable upset over Clemson, a team that has now won 28 games straight at home. Instead, the Panthers were plagued by dropped passes, missed tackles and poor decisions.
Pat Narduzzi’s side has a bye this coming week. The Panthers will close out their regular season on Dec. 10 at Georgia Tech. That games was originally supposed to be played on Nov. 14, but was postponed due to coronavirus concerns at Pitt.