PITTSBURGH — Pitt’s defense was shredded for 516 yards, while the offense turned the ball over three times and Western Michigan took advantage, upsetting the Panthers, 44-41 at Heinz Field on Saturday.
Pitt entered the game as more than two touchdown favorites, but instead left with its first home loss to a non-Power Five team under Pat Narduzzi.
The Panthers needed a defensive stop to get the offense the ball back, but Western Michigan converted a 3rd and 7 and the running back Sean Tyler gained 34 yards on a 2nd and 11 to ice the game.
The visiting Broncos seized the advantage in the first half, scoring touchdowns on three consecutive possessions, the second after a Kenny Pickett fumble and the third after Pitt turned the ball over on downs. Pickett was injured on the play he fumbled but later returned.
Western Michigan drove the ball seemingly at will for most of the game, averaging 13.7 yards per completion and converted on 7 of 17 third downs.
Broncos quarterback Kaleb Eleby threw 34 times, completing 22 for 323 yards and three touchdowns, frequently utilizing a run-pass option scheme that Pitt’s defense had difficulty containing.
Pitt’s offense gave a valiant effort to keep the Panthers in the game, with Pickett throwing six touchdowns, just the third time school history a Pitt quarterback threw six or more scores. Pickett finished 23 of 31 for 386 yards.
But he was also directly or indirectly responsible for all three turnovers: a fumble on a scramble, an interception and a missed exchanged between him and freshman running back Rodney Hammond after a high snap. The Broncos got 14 points off the Pitt turnovers.
Jordan Addison was Pickett’s best target, hauling in six passes for 124 yards and three scores. Jared Wayne had five catches for 100 yards and tight end Lucas Krull had two scores on three catches for 36 yards.
The 2-1 Panthers will attempt to regroup against New Hampshire on Sept. 25 at Heinz Field.