DURHAM, N.C. – The start to the game was bumpy, but once Kenny Pickett found his groove, the result was no longer in doubt for the Pitt Panthers.
Against Duke on Saturday, Pickett notched the fifth lead change of the game on a 22-yard rushing score in the second quarter. From there, Pitt never relinquished the lead as they sprinted past the Blue Devils. On a frigid and windy day at Wallace Wade Stadium, Pitt beat Duke 54-29 behind an impressive offensive performance from Pickett.
Pitt (7-2; 4-1 ACC) entered this game with the nation’s fourth-highest scoring offense with a unit powered by Pickett that was scoring 43.9 points per-game. In front of an announced crowd of 20,693 fans, the Heisman hopeful continued to impress, as he completed 28-of-43 passes for 416 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 57 yards and a score.
While Pickett eventually shined, it took him and the Pitt offense a bit to get rolling against Duke (3-6; 0-5 ACC). Indeed, Pitt did score first, when Pickett found Jared Wayne with a 10-yard touchdown strike. But then the Blue Devils outscored Pitt 19-7 over the next 12 or so minutes.
It was a run highlighted by a safety for Duke – in which they tackled Vincent Davis in the end-zone – and an 86-yard kickoff return by Jaylon Stinson. It was the first time Pitt had allowed a kick return score since 2017 against North Carolina.
Pitt got itself together quickly though, heading into halftime on a 13-0 scoring run. Eventually, that run would grow to 30-3, as Pitt led by 22 points to start the fourth quarter. Jordan Addison was Pickett’s favorite target Saturday, as the sophomore hauled in seven catches for 171 yards and a score. Addison also scored on a two-yard rush.
In addition to Pickett and Addison’s highlights, redshirt sophomore kicker Sam Scarton was perfect on four field goal tries, connecting on kicks of 24, 34, 41 and 47 yards.
Defensively, Pitt racked up six sacks on the day, recovered a Duke fumble and grabbed an interception. Cam Bright was credited with 2.5 sacks, and senior linebacker John Petrishen picked off the pass.
While Pitt will celebrate the win, there wasn’t all good news out of Saturday’s contest. Two starters in defensive tackle Keyshon Camp and right tackle Gabe Houy left the game in the first half with apparent right leg injuries. Neither player returned to the game.
Pitt will continue its quest to capture the Coastal Division title for the second time in head coach Pat Narduzzi’s tenure next week when it hosts North Carolina at Heinz Field.