Pitt stuns No. 2 Miami behind QB Kenny Pickett

By Alan Saunders, The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 24, 2017 at 5:04 PM
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PITTSBURGH -- Despite starting the season unbeaten in 10 straight games, the No. 2 Miami Hurricanes had a habit all year of falling behind in games they were favored to win.

It finally caught up to them on Saturday as the Pittsburgh Panthers, led by true freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for another score, got out to quick start and held on for a 24-14 upset victory at Heinz Field on Friday.

The Hurricanes (10-1, 7-1) had trailed by two touchdowns in the third quarter against Virginia Nov. 18 before coming back for 30 unanswered points and a runaway victory. On Oct. 28 against North Carolina, they led by one at the half before pulling away for a 24-19 win.

This time, there was no comeback in the cards thanks to a strong performance from the Pitt defense. The Panthers (5-7, 3-5) batted down 10 passes, had three sacks and allowed just 2.1 yards per carry on the ground.

Miami starter Malik Rosier was mostly ineffective despite a line of 15 of 34 for 187 yards and two touchdowns. He was briefly pulled in the fourth quarter in favor of redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs. In this third action of the year, Shirreffs fared no better, going 0-of-2 passing.

Pitt's offense got going thanks to a spark from Pickett, who made his first career start and provided offense both on the ground and through the air. Pickett went 18 of 29 for 193 yards passing, including a 4-yard touchdown on a shovel pass to Qadree Ollison to give Pitt a 10-point lead in the second half.

Pickett also chipped in on the ground, showing off his toughness by breaking tackles on the way to a 6-yard scramble for a score in the first half.

With a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, Pitt took the ball at its own 10-yard line and ran 12 plays and took 6:10 off the clock, with Pickett capping the drive with a 22-yard score on a naked bootleg on a fourth down. Pickett finished with 60 yards rushing on 13 carries.

Pitt also got a strong rushing performance on the final drive from Ollison, who finished with 63 yards on 14 carries to go along with his receiving touchdown.

Rosier got back into the game and completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Braxton Barrios to close the gap and Miami recovered an onside kick, but Pitt cornerback Avonte Maddox sacked Rosier and forced a fumble that was recovered by Dewayne Hendrix to seal the Pitt win.

NOTES: QB Kenny Pickett was the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Pitt since Pat Bostick in 2007. ... Pitt RT Jaryd Jones-Smith wore No. 75, which was retired by the Panthers in 2015 for former offensive lineman Jimbo Covert. Covert gave Jones-Smith his blessing to wear the jersey. ... The Hurricanes recovered three fumbles while losing just one to increase their NCAA-leading turnover margin to plus-18 on the season. ... Miami RB Travis Homer finished with a season-low 12 yards on seven carries.

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