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Pitt Football

Shorthanded Pitt Misses Too Many Opportunities, Falls to Tennessee 34-27 in Overtime

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PITTSBURGH — Pat Narduzzi’s squad entered overtime against all odds, following a game of injuries to key offensive and defensive starters, missed field goals and turnover on downs resulting in stymied offensive possessions.

Nearly 60 minutes of leaving too many opportunities on the field at Acrisure Stadium came back to bite Pitt in the behind as Tennessee walked off the field with a 34-27 win over Pitt after Nick Patti’s 4th-and-20 pass fell incomplete in overtime.

Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns, including 162 yards and two touchdowns to Cedric Tillman, and Pitt’s offense wasn’t able to do enough to keep up with Kedon Slovis sidelined in the second half.

Cedric Tillman proved to be a thorn in Pitt’s side all night, along with a plethora of other issues on a very, very rough night at Acrisure Stadium, and he turned M.J. Devonshire inside out to get himself wide open for a go-ahead touchdown catch to open the overtime period.

After a sideline catch from Jared Wayne was called a catch and overturned, a 4th-and-5 conversion to Konata Mumpfield kept Pitt alive. But on a 3rd-and-goal from the 8-yard line, Pitt’s offensive line couldn’t stop the wave of Tennessee’s rushers and Patti was dragged down for a 12-yard loss.

On 4th-and-goal from the 20-yard line, Patti dropped back and fired a ball to Mumpfield streaking underneath, but the ball fell incomplete and Tennessee walked off as overtime winners.

Slovis led the way for Pitt in the first half with 195 yards and a touchdown on 14 completions, and Israel Abanikanda turned in a performance of 154 yards and a touchdown — along with a 21-yard reception — to help keep Pitt alive.

Pitt’s defense recorded three sacks, five tackles for loss, forced a fumble, blocked a punt and recovered a muffed punt, but the effort wasn’t enough against a fast-paced Tennessee offense in the end.

A quick, 35 second three and out followed by a slightly less quick minute, 14 second three and out — a six play stretch in which Tennessee’s vaunted offense only racked up two yards on a Hooker draw — allowed Pitt to try to establish some offensive momentum in the early going.

Pitt turned a short field into a 30-yard field goal from Ben Sauls, and while the follow-up drive was lightning quick, I don’t think anyone was complaining about a 76-yard halfback draw right through the heart of the Tennessee defense. Abanikanda’s run, the longest Pitt rushing touchdown since Qadree Ollison rumbled for a 98-yard score against Virginia Tech in 2018, was a textbook example of his explosion, agility and ability to break tackles.

With a 10-0 lead, following a beautiful pass breakup from A.J. Woods to force a turnover on downs from Tennessee, Pitt had a chance to really put the pedal to the metal, but a ball that bounced off Bub Means’ hands in the end zone was corraled by Tennessee’s Trevon Flowers. The Vols would score on the next three offensive possessions — four of the next five — following the interception.

An 11-play, 80-yard drive capped by a Jabari Small 1-yard touchdown dive in 3:14.

A 9-play, 71-yard drive capped by a 32-yard touchdown toss to Bru McCoy in 3:13.

A 3-play, 66-yard drive capped by another Jabari Small 1-yard dive (set up by a 61-yard strike to Cedric Hillman) in :35.

A 3-play, 8-yard drive ended by a 37-yard Chase McGrath field goal in :10.

Pitt’s offense in the midst of the 24-7 Tennessee run to end the half came courtesy of Gavin Batholomew and an incredibly athletic hurdle over a would-be Tennessee defender to race for a 57-yard touchdown and secure a 17-7 Pitt lead. However, any further sustained offense from Pitt was few and far between.

Pitt turned the ball over on downs on a 4th-and-2 from the Tennessee 28-yard line after a ? got an unblocked rush and clobbered Slovis in the backfield. A late second quarter chance, after the defense recorded its first two splash plays in the form of a Calijah Kancey tackle for loss and David Green sack, resulted in an immediate strip-sack from Tennessee that likely injured Slovis and allowed the Vols a few more points.

It appeared that M.J. Devonshire came down with an interception in the end zone, but upon review, his toe was just touching the white paint on the sideline. A 37-yard field goal from Tennessee’s Chase McGrath made it a 24-17 Vols lead at the half. And when Pitt returned to the field in the second half, Slovis didn’t join his team.

Pitt’s defense clamped down in the second half, racking up 29 yards on just 12 plays in the third quarter. P.J. O’Brien blocked a punt, Tylar Wiltz’s stripped Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright and Erick Hallett recovered it.

But Pitt was also unable to find the end zone in the third quarter as Patti adjusted to being in the game without a warmup, and the blocked punt resulted in a missed field goal from Sauls.

The forced fumble resulted in a 36-yard field goal, but it also resulted in Patti suffering an injury of his own. However, he would be able to return to the contest.

Pitt’s defense pulled the ol’ bend, don’t break on the ensuing drive. A fourth down conversion from Tillman continued the Vols’ drive inside Pitt territory, but a Kancey sack forced a 51-yard field goal attempt on 4th-and-19. And Pitt led the offense back onto the field after a brief scare. The offensive inconsistency under Patti continued, but of course, Flowers muffed Sam Vander Haar’s punt, and Byron Floyd recovered it.

With a beat-up Patti, Pitt managed to punch into the end zone on a 4th-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Patti dropped back, fired a dart to Wayne in the back of the end zone and he secured the ball and came down with the clutch game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Pitt’s defense re-took the field with 2:23 left in the fourth quarter, forced a 4th-and-3 opportunity just beyond midfield — courtesy of a couple of nice plays from Haba Baldonado — and Narduzzi decided to not go for the win and simply take the game into overtime. And in overtime, Tennessee did enough to put Pitt away.

Pitt will travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan next week for a 7:30 p.m. contest against Western Michigan. With a 1-1 start to the season, Pitt will have a chance to enter conference place 3-1, but there are some lingering injuries piling up and ones that will need to be addressed going forward.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Jeff Morris
Jeff Morris
18 days ago

Both teams we have played so far have featured large grown men receivers and they have given us fits. Pitt receivers and DBs look like toys in comparison. Mismatches everywhere. Need to recruit big stud wideouts and tall DBs. Mumphord looks over rated.

Jeff
Jeff
18 days ago

Very sketchy and questionable calls from the replay official. I was under the impression that plays were supposed to stand if there was inconclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field but obviously this replay official doesn’t understand that or must have an electron microscope in the booth to be able to see that both Devonshire and Wayne were out of bounds. I was also under the impression that the offensive line returning was supposed to be a strength this year for this team but they have yet to show any proof of that notion thus far. Credit to… Read more »

Giovanni
Giovanni
17 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

Well stated. I don’t get why Bub Means is getting so much playing time. He fumbled a catch & run ball in the WVU game and no one ever touched him. Additionally, he dropped another ball that was placed right in his hands in the same game. Now Pitt had a chance to go up 17-0 early on and another catchable ball bounced off of both of Means’ hands leading to an interception in the end zone. Such a large Pitt lead early in the game would have pressured Tennessee into turning the ball over as they would have taken… Read more »

Last edited 17 days ago by Giovanni
Pittband
Pittband
18 days ago

I think this was the reason the WV coach was screaming at the refs last week. “You’re supposed to have our backs.” After the unbiased job by the Big 12 refs, the SEC refs gave Tennessee the comfort of knowing they had their backs last night. If it was a foul for Pitt, pick up the flag if it went for Tennessee leave it on the ground. This crew will be getting more Tennessee games this season. Two defensive holding flags and an obvious targeting on a kickoff were “picked up”. Tennessee’s defense rushed the left side LB every time… Read more »

On Campus Stadium Please
On Campus Stadium Please
17 days ago
Reply to  Pittband

WV lost to Kansas so that win over WVU looks very average

Ed Rose
Ed Rose
17 days ago

You only comment after a Pitt loss or a recruiting loss to another school. You are not a fan. Just a PSU guy here to rub it in to the Pitt fans that read here and use this site. The site moderator should boot your ass from this site. PSU beat Ohio. Rejoice and be glad.

On Campus Stadium Please
On Campus Stadium Please
16 days ago
Reply to  Ed Rose

Get booted? Why cancel and not have a conversation? PSU also beat Purdue on the road and will beat Auburn on the road next weekend with Nicholas Singleton running like crazy.
Rent free

On Campus Stadium Please
On Campus Stadium Please
17 days ago

OL was awful and in typical Duzz fashion he allowed Tillman to dominate them without making any adjustments, too much cushion by DB’s. Blaming the refs is a copout.

Ed Rose
Ed Rose
17 days ago

How would you adjust on Tillman when Pitt plays man coverage? I am sure you were a D coordinator somewhere and could have schemed a way to stop him. They needed a cushion because he is an elite receiver and was more talented then the corners covering him. It is that simple. If you press you get burned. The refs were atrocious. Missed late hits, a phantom hold on a touchdown, you can on and on. They were not the reason Pitt lost. They had many opportunities they did not execute enough to win the game.

On Campus Stadium Please
On Campus Stadium Please
16 days ago
Reply to  Ed Rose

double him, press off the line with backside help. Duzz will always put his DB’s on an island, even when they are obviously overmatched (VA Tech a few years ago and Saturday are but a few examples). You have to make another receiver beat you. You keep blaming the officials though.

Tom DiPasquale
Tom DiPasquale
17 days ago

Bub Means is not a good football player. Don’t care what he did in his Division 2 season last year. He’s been a disaster and Pitt has Bradley and Barden and They shoved means down our throats as if he’s Jerry Rice. Its ridiculous. That drop in the end zone and interception turned the entire game. Terrible. Bad coaching

Tom DiPasquale
Tom DiPasquale
17 days ago
Reply to  Tom DiPasquale

and quite honestly, the transfer LB’s can’t tackle for shit either. All of these hyped transfer portal players have been below average.

Ed Rose
Ed Rose
17 days ago
Reply to  Tom DiPasquale

It is not the coaches fault he missed the ball.

Dukes

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