Maurice Ffrench

Associated Press

Pitt rallies past Eastern Michigan to win Quick Lane Bowl

2 Comments

After a truly dreadful Independence Bowl, we were due for a good one in the nightcap. We got it. Pitt took its first and final lead with 47 seconds to go, rallying past Eastern Michigan to win the Quick Lane Bowl, 34-30.

But before Pitt could rally for the win, Pat Narduzzi‘s team first had to fall behind.

Eastern Michigan (6-7) registered a 35-yard Chris Ryland field goal to open the game, and then Kenny Pickett could not hold on to the ball as he was being sacked, turning it over. Mike Glass III pushed the Panthers’ deficit to 10-0 with a 3-yard run at the 6:46 mark of the first quarter. Then, Alex Kessman failed to get Pitt on the board when he missed a 49-yard field goal.

However, things would get better in the second quarter. Kessman made a 44-yard field goal and then, after forcing a second straight EMU punt, Pickett found Maurice Ffrench for a 96-yard touchdown pass, the longest in school history, which tied the game at 10 at the 10:04 mark of the second quarter.

Eastern answered with a Glass pass that hit off the hands of a Pitt defender and into the arms of Quian Williams, who raced untouched for a 50-yard touchdown. Pitt answered with an 8-yard Vincent Davis run.

EMU nudged back ahead with a 45-yard Ryland field goal with 1:32 left in the first half, but could not double its lead to six when, after a Pitt three-and-out, Glass took a sack with no timeouts and 20 seconds left and EMU could not get the ball spiked in time before the clock expired. Those three unrealized points would prove crucial.

Pitt (8-5) tied the game with a 51-yard Kessman boot at the 4:16 mark of the third quarter and, after a pair of punts, the game would then see-saw back and forth. EMU took a 27-20 lead on a 10-yard pass from Glass III to Arthur Jackson III, but Pitt struck right back with a 19-yard strike from Pickett to John Wayne.

Eastern Michigan immediately drove into Panther territory, but they could not finish the drive and the Pitt defense held serve via a 48-yard Ryland field goal. The Eagle defense then forced a three-and-out, handing its offense a chance to win the game with the ball and a 30-27 lead with 4:19 to play. EMU could not achieve the necessary first down, allowing Pitt to take over at its own 9 with 2:37 available. They would need only 1:56, knifing 91 yards in 10 plays, Pitt took its first lead on this 25-yard toss from Pickett (361 yards, three touchdowns) to Taysir Mack.

Needing a touchdown instead of a field goal, Eastern moved from its 25 to the 40 but pushed no further. Glass was ejected with five seconds to play for throwing a punch, and backup Preston Hutchinson could not pull off a miracle.

The win gave Pitt its first bowl victory in four tries under Narduzzi. EMU is still looking for its second bowl win in school history.

Eastern Michigan leads Pitt halfway through Quick Lane Bowl

Associated Press
Leave a comment

At the half in Detroit, Eastern Michigan holds a 20-17 lead over Pitt.

Continuing a theme of the day, the game started absolutely horrible for Pitt. Eastern Michigan registered a 35-yard Chris Ryland field goal to open the game, and then Kenny Pickett could not hold on to the ball as he was being sacked, turning it over. Mike Glass III pushed the Panthers’ deficit to 10-0 with a 3-yard run at the 6:46 mark of the first quarter. Then, Alex Kessman failed to get Pitt on the board when he missed a 49-yard field goal.

However, things would get better in the second quarter. Kessman made a 44-yard field goal and then, after forcing a second straight EMU punt, Pickett found Maurice Ffrench for a 96-yard touchdown pass, the longest in school history, which tied the game at 10 at the 10:04 mark of the second quarter.

Eastern answered with a Glass pass that hit off the hands of a Pitt defender and into the arms of Quian Williams, who raced untouched for a 50-yard touchdown. Pitt answered with an 8-yard Vincent Davis run.

EMU nudged back ahead with a 45-yard Ryland field goal with 1:32 left in the first half, but could not double its lead to six when, after a Pitt three-and-out, Glass took a sack with no timeouts and 20 seconds left and EMU could not get the ball spiked in time before the clock expired.

Pitt will receive to open the second half.

Broken jaw leaves Pitt’s top WR a game-time decision

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If Pitt is to keep its ACC Coastal hopes alive this weekend, they may have to do so (again) without a very productive piece of its offensive puzzle.

Maurice Ffrench suffered a broken jaw in Pitt’s Nov. 2 win over Georgia Tech, then was sidelined for this past week’s win over North Carolina.  With a trip to Blacksburg on tap for this Saturday, Ffrench is official a game-time decision for the matchup with Virginia Tech.

“He’s practiced this week,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said, noting that the senior was in non-contact mode. “His jaw is better than it was before.”

Ffrench had a steel plate inserted into his broken jaw, which will give him a better chance of seeing the field this weekend.

Ffrench currently leads all ACC players in receptions (75) and receptions per game (8.3).  The receptions per game are also third nationally.

Pitt is 4-2 in ACC play entering Week 13, tied with Virginia Tech for second place in the Coastal and a half-game behind first-place Virginia (5-2).  The Panthers have already lost the Cavaliers this year, meaning they would need UVa to lose its last conference game of the regular season (Nov. 29 against rival Tech) in addition to winning each of their last two games (at Tech, home vs. Boston College) in order to earn a spot opposite Clemson in the ACC championship game.

Wake Forest loses ACC’s leader in receiving yards, touchdowns to season-ending injury

Wake Forest Sage Surratt
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wake Forest lost much more than a football game this past Saturday.

In the fourth quarter of the Week 11 loss to Virginia Tech that, along with Clemson’s win later that night, cost Wake any shot at the ACC Atlantic championship, Sage Surratt went down with some type of upper-body injury and didn’t return.  Tuesday, during his weekly press conference, head coach Dave Clawson confirmed that the redshirt sophomore wide receiver will miss the remainder of the 2019 season because of the injury, which he again declined to specify.

Clawson added that Surratt will undergo surgery to repair the unspecified damage.

Surratt’s 1,001 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns are the most of any player in the ACC, and are good for fifth and tied for fifth, respectively, at the FBS level.  His 66 receptions are second only to Pitt’s Maurice Ffrench‘s 75 in the conference.

In addition to this Saturday’s game against No. 5 Clemson, Surratt will miss regular-season games against Duke and Syracuse as well as whichever bowl at which Wake lands.

Pitt’s fourth straight win has Panthers gearing up for ACC Coastal run

Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Predicting what is going to happen in the ACC Coastal Division is hardly an easy task. The division has had six different champions reach the ACC Championship Game in the last six years. This year, Pitt (5-2, 2-1 ACC) is hoping to become the second team in the division to play in back-to-back ACC Championship Games, joining Virginia Tech (2007, 2008). On Friday night, a 27-20 victory at Syracuse (3-4, 0-3 ACC) helped keep that goal alive.

Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett passed for 232 yards and two touchdowns, with six of those receptions being hauled in by Maurice Ffrench (92 yards, 1 TD). The Panthers held a 24-6 lead at halftime and had to hold off a rally by Syracuse. Among the highlights for Pitt was a lateral back to Pickett, who connected deep Aaron Matthews early in the game. The play had to be reviewed as an illegal double forward pass penalty was originally flagged by the ACC official. Replay correctly overturned the call and awarded Pitt the go-ahead touchdown. The Panthers never trailed the rest of the night.

Since losing their road game at Penn State in non-conference play in Week 3, Pitt has rattled off four consecutive wins, beginning with an upset of UCF. One more non-conference win against Delaware led into back-to-back ACC wins against Duke and Syracuse. The victory against Duke was key because the Blue Devils are a division opponent. And the quick decline of Syracuse this season made for an easier road game than perhaps was to be expected before the season started (Syracuse won 10 games last year and is now in jeopardy of missing out on bowl eligibility).

Pitt now gets ready for a key stretch of division games that could ultimately determine if the Panthers can get a second crack at an ACC title (likely against Clemson). Next up will be Miami, next week in Pittsburgh. Pitt upset the Hurricanes in western Pennsylvania two seasons ago, dealing a near-fatal blow to Miami’s College Football Playoff hopes (Clemson put the Hurricanes to rest in the ACC Championship Game). If the Panthers can get the win against Miami, the remaining schedule has some favorable draws with road games against struggling Georgia Tech (1-5) and Virginia Tech (4-2, but a far from encouraging 4-2) and home games against UNC and Boston College (both schools are 3-3 coming into the week).

Pitt would lose out on a head-to-head tiebreaker with Virginia but does own the tiebreaker with Duke. Pitt fans will be watching to see what happens between Duek and Virginia Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville. A Duke win would, essentially, put Pitt in the driver’s seat.

We may still get some ACC Coastal Chaos, but Pitt has played themselves into a bit of a decent spot within the division race.