KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Kenny Pickett accounted for three touchdowns as Pitt sweated out a Tennessee comeback big to win, 41-34 for the Panthers’ first road win at a non-conference Power Five team since 2008 at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
Brandon Hill intercepted Hendon Hooker’s pass with 4:52 to play and Vincent Davis and Israel Abanikanda got Pitt’s beleaguered rushing attack off the mat to run out the clock and preserve the victory.
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Pickett played one of his best games at Pitt, throwing 36 times and completing 24 for 285 yards and two passing touchdowns. He also ran for a score.
But Pitt struggled mightily to move the ball on the ground, gaining a total of 96 yards on 45 carries, 19 of which were from Pickett’s legs.
A number of subpar special teams plays also hampered the Panthers, none more than the fourth offensive play of the game, when Kirk Christodoulou’s punt was blocked by Christian Charles.
Tennessee recovered at the Pitt 2-yard line and scored one play later. After two Pitt 3-and-outs, the Volunteers drove down the field and kicked a 37-yard Chase McGrath Field goal to a take a 10-0 lead.
The Panthers responded with a Pickett touchdown to Melquise Stovall and a third down from the 11-yard line.
After another McGrath field goal, Pitt used some razzle-dazzle to take the lead, as Jared Wayne took a Pickett lateral and thew to Lucas Krull for a 16-yard score.
Pitt’s defense forced a Tennessee turnover when Keyshon Camp drilled Joe Milton III and forced a fumble, but the Panthers could take only partial advantage, settling for a 38-yard Sam Scarton field goal. Milton left the game after the hit and did not return, replaced by Hooker.
Scarton kicked another one from 27 yards later in the second quarter and Pitt took a 20-13 lead, but Jimmy Calloway took an innocent-looking wide receiver screen 44 yards to the house after an A.J. Woods missed tackle to tie the score with 2:16 to play in the first half.
The Pitt 2-minute drill was a success, as Pickett led the Panthers down field and Vincent Davis capped off a 75-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard plunge.
In the third quarter, Pickett called his own number for a 1-yard sneak on a fourth and goal to establish a two-touchdown Panthers lead.
From there, the teams traded scores, with Hooker finding tight end Jacob Warren up the seam for an 8-yard touchdown, Pickett hitting Jordan Addison over the middle for a 5-yard score and Volunteers back Jaylen Wright pushing across the goal line from 1 yard out.
Pitt’s defense held firm, with Chase Pine stopping Wright on a fourth down inside the five, and then after a Pitt punt, Hill coming up with the game-sealing interception.
Game Highlights 🎥
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The Panthers improved to 2-0 on the season and got their first road win against a Power Five non-conference opponent under Pat Narduzzi and first overall since winning at Notre Dame in 2018.