Well the monkey is off of Pitt’s back. For the first time in seven tries (and the first time since they’ve joined the ACC) Pitt beat UNC in football, and Pitt fans are feeling pretty good about it.
The game went as you might expect. Pitt played well in the first half and took at fourteen point lead into the locker room. In the second half they allowed their opponent to get back into the game.
But unlike the Miami game, Pitt’s offense moved the ball when they needed to. And unlike the Miami game, Pitt’s defense got a stop when it mattered.
Kenny Pickett had arguably the best game of his career. He finished 25 of 41 (61%), with 359 yards and 1 TD. That all adds up to a 142.6 passer rating. For the first time this season he was able to put touch under his long passes. He took only one sack and threw the ball away instead of forcing things into coverage. The result was that he threw zero interceptions. He also hurt the Tarheels with his feet, running for 53 yards on 12 carries and scoring two touchdowns on the ground.
Shockey Jaques-Louis had his coming out party, and caught four balls for 104 yards and one TD. He would have had more yardage and another TD had it not been for a questionable replay call. Taysir Mack caught six balls for 83. True freshman Jared Wayne emerged as viable possession receiver, catching four balls for 30 yards. Oft-maligned Tight End Will Gragg stepped up his game, catching three balls, a couple of them in clutch situations.
Pitt’s defense notched five sacks, to move them back into 1st place in the Nation. (They have 45). Pitt is undefeated under Narduzzi when the defense sacks the quarterback five or more times.
Pitt also won the turnover battle. Damarri Matthis snared a key interception in the 4th quarter. Pitt would have had at least one more except for an untimely PI call on backup safety Jazzee Stocker.
Cam Bright had nine tackles (if you haven’t noticed he’s been playing very well lately). Paris Ford notched nine as well. Deslin Alexandre posted a sack and two TFL, and disrupted Sam Howell’s final passing attempt of the game, which fell harmlessly incomplete on fourth down. The legend of Jaylen Twyman continued, as he collected two and half sacks (both after halftime and in key situations) to put him at 9.5 for the year. Damar Hamlin played exremely well for the first quarter and a half until we was ejected on a very bogus targeting call.
On special teams, Alex Kessman did not wear his baby blue shoes (for obvious reasons) and it showed. He was just 2 for 3 on field goals. Redshirt freshman John Vardzel secured all punts that came his way. This season, that is a win.
Were there a couple of questionable coaching decisions? Yes. (Should Pat have tried to kick the field goal on 4th and 3???? Why in the world did he take all those defensive time outs???) Would we have liked to see Pitt, who was clearly the better team on Thursday, beat UNC wire-to-wire? Yes. But that’s not Pitt this year. Yes it’s difficult to watch at times, but we’ve been in every single game until the fourth quarter, and we haven’t been blown out. We may not win ’em all, but enjoy this roller coaster ride for the few games we have left because Pitt football has never been so maddeningly lovable.
Feel free to post your good, bad and ugly…