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.
Heck of a catch by Taysir Mack to put Pitt ahead with 47 seconds to play pic.twitter.com/FjNV1lawhA
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) December 27, 2019
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.
marvelous ESPN Deportes call pic.twitter.com/UAghdn0AVM
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) December 27, 2019
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.