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Pitt whips Wake Forest, claims first-ever ACC Coastal title

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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.

No. 13 UCF extends nation’s longest winning streak to 17 after thumping Pitt

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Earlier this week, College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock sent a jolt of excitement through the hearts of fans in Central Florida by confirming there is a path for No. 13 UCF to make the playoff at the end of the year. Essentially it came down to one thing: keep winning.

So far so good for the Knights as they extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 by beating Pitt 45-14, capturing the program’s third win over a Power Five program in the past two seasons in the process.

As the score line indicated, the game was quite lopsided and the only sign of life from the Panthers most of the afternoon came on an 86-yard punt return for a score by Rafael Araujo-Lopes in the first quarter. Outside of that mistake on special teams, UCF lived up to their top 15 ranking and clearly were the better side in all three phases.

Quarterback McKenzie Milton continued to float around in the fringes of the Heisman Trophy conversation by throwing for 328 yards during a somewhat uneven outing with four touchdowns through the air and another two more scores on the ground to go with his 51 yards rushing. The electric dual-threat from Hawaii didn’t have his best of days against Pitt’s defense but the Knights still averaged over seven yards per play and punted just twice.

It wasn’t a bad day for his teammates on the other side of the ball either. Despite being on the field quite a bit due to all those quick scoring drives, UCF racked up three sacks and had a constant presence in the backfield. Panthers QB Kenny Pickett threw for only 163 yards (1 TD, 1 INT) and Qadree Ollison managed just 49 yards rushing to pace his team in that category.

The loss dropped Pat Narduzzi’s group to 2-3 on the season and it could be awhile before they find the win column again with Syracuse, Notre Dame and Duke on the docket next month.

As for UCF, the flip side might ring true for that program as the win streak looks like it will be awhile before it ends. Given how the AAC has looked relatively lackluster through the first month of the season, it could well be November before this team is truly tested after making things look easy once again in their only test against a Power Five opponent. With former coach Scott Frost struggling to even muster a single victory at Nebraska this year, his old team seems to have not lost a beat down in Orlando as they look again like the Group of Five’s best.