Since joining the ACC in 2013, Pitt had never finished higher than a solo second (2015) in the Coastal division. With one game left in the 2018 regular season, the Panthers have already clinched a significant piece of program history.
Things didn’t exactly look promising for Pitt early on, however, with Wake Forest taking a 10-6 into the halftime locker room as the Panthers’ high-powered rushing attack was essentially shut down through two quarters. A pair of third-quarter touchdowns passes from Kenny Pickett, though — four yards to Rafael Araujo-Lopes, 63 yards to Taysir Mack — gave the Panthers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in a securing a 34-13 win in Winston-Salem.
With the win, Pitt, at 6-1 in conference play, is officially the winner of the ACC Coastal division. It marks the first-ever conference title for the Panthers after joining the league five years and six seasons ago.
It was also the culmination of a march that began back in July when the conference’s media picked them to finish fifth in the seven-team division. The next step, after a road date with Miami next weekend to close out the regular season, will be against second-ranked Clemson Dec. 1 in the ACC championship game in Charlotte.
Over the past three games, the Panthers had rushed for nearly 1,300 yards combined; Saturday, they were held to just 154 in averaging 3.3 yards per carry. Pickett picked up the offensive slack, though, as he passed for a career-high 316. Not only was this the first 300-yard game of the sophomore’s career, it was just the second 200-yard game (242 vs. Virginia Tech in November of last year) in his two seasons.
The three touchdown passes were a career-high as well; in fact, Pickett came into the game with 10 career touchdown passes and nine on the season.
While they couldn’t get much going on the ground, especially compared to the past couple of weeks, the Panthers did manage a pair of rushing touchdowns. The last one, with 3:22 left in the fourth quarter that proved to be the final nail in the Demon Deacons’ coffin, came courtesy of a six-yard touchdown run by Stefano Milan — a fifth-year senior offensive tackle.
Wake, meanwhile, dropped to 5-6 and will need to beat Duke on the road next week to become bowl-eligible. The Demon Deacons have played in two straight bowl games, and a third would tie the program record set from 2006-08.