Taysir Mack

Associated Press

Pitt rallies past Eastern Michigan to win Quick Lane Bowl


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.

Pitt Special! Pitt stuns No. 15 UCF in thriller to snap UCF regular-season win streak

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After 27 consecutive wins in the regular season, the UCF Knights have taken a loss. No. 15 UCF (3-1) was upset on the road by Pitt (2-2, 0-1 ACC) on Saturday afternoon in Heinz Field, 35-34. Pitt blew a 21-0 lead before coming back to win the game with a trick play in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

With the game on the line in the final minute of the fourth quarter, Pitt rolled out a play reminiscent of the Philly Special (Pat Narduzzi attempted to rebrand the play as Pitt Special after the game) from Super Bowl 52. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett caught a pass from Aaron Matthews for a three-yard go-ahead touchdown.

Making the situation more imposing for UCF was the fact head coach Josh Heupel burned UCF’s final timeout on defense just before the touchdown was scored. That left UCF in a tough spot with under a minute to play. Starting at their 25-yard line with 56 seconds to play and no timeouts at their disposal, time ran out on the Knights as the Pitt defense was swarming. Gabriel was sacked twice in three plays to lock the gate son a win for the Panthers.

UCF fell behind with an uncharacteristically ugly start that saw them fall behind 21-0, and every aspect of the team was to blame. The offense was unable to get going. The defense could not make a big stop. And the special teams unit had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown by the Panthers. But UCF seized some control and got things back in their favor with a couple of scores before halftime, and a 21-7 burst out of halftime turned the tables in UCF’s favor.

Dillon Gabriel overcame his own rough start to the game to throw for 321 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdown passes came in the third quarter, the first to Gabriel Davis from the 10-yard line to bring UCF within four and the second to Davis for a 28-yard score to push UCF’s lead to 10.

But UCF couldn’t put the game away for good. UCF missed on a fourth-down conversion attempt in the fourth quarter and settled for a field goal at the end of a 10-play drive with 4:36 remaining in the game. Pitt then went on their game-winning drive over the course of 12 plays. The drive was extended by a UCF offside penalty on a 4th & 5 with 2:11 left to play. After getting the free first down, Pickett completed a 19-yard pass to Taysir Mack to get the ball down to the UCF 11-yard line. A few plays later set the stage for the memorable touchdown by the Panthers.

For the first time in three seasons, UCF must rebound from a regular-season loss. The good news is they get a good rebound opportunity next week at home against UConn. It will be all conference play the rest of the year for UCF, and their hopes of playing in the New Years Six ar not at all dashed base don this one loss. With over two months of football still to be played, UCF still is firmly in the mix for a third-straight NY6 appearance (although fans of Boise State are feeling good at this particular moment). But the talk about UCF in the College Football Playoff, for now, can be set aside.

As for Pitt, the Panthers play one more non-conference matchup next week against Delaware, a top 25 FCS program coming off a nailbiter against Penn earlier today. After a battle with the Blue Hens, Pitt will remain in ACC play for the rest of the season, beginning with a road trip to Duke. And against Duke, anything can happen if recent history is any indication.

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.

Indiana transfer Taysir Mack granted immediate eligibility at Pitt

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Indiana at Illinois
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Pat Narduzzi and the Pitt football program had been holding out hope for months that they would have a new offensive toy at their disposal sooner than expected.  Friday, that hope morphed into reality.

In a tweet posted to its Twitter account just a short time ago, the Panthers confirmed that Taysir Mack will be immediately eligible to play in 2018 after being granted a waiver from the NCAA.  It’s unclear on what grounds the wide receiver was granted a waiver.

Mack came to Pitt in December of last year as a transfer after playing two seasons at Indiana, and it was thought he’d have to sit out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  Instead, he’ll be able to provide an instant boost to the Panthers’ offense.

Mack was a three-star 2016 recruit who was rated as the No. 7 player at any position in the state of New York. After redshirting as a true freshman, he caught 23 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. Those numbers were good for fifth, fifth and tied for third, respectively, on the team.

Including the 2018 season, Mack has three years of eleigibility he can use.

Indiana WR Taysir Mack transfers to Pitt

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In the midst of the first Early Signing Period, Pitt has bolstered its roster numbers via a more traditional personnel maneuver.

The Panthers confirmed Thursday that they have added transfer wide receiver Taysir Mack. Prior to the Twitter announcement from Pitt’s head coach, this was the first mention of Mack even transferring from his now-former school, Indiana.

The reason or reasons behind this abrupt divorce and remarriage are not yet known.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Mack will be forced to sit out the 2018 season. He’ll then have two seasons of eligibility remaining that he can begin using in 2019.

Mack was a three-star 2016 recruit who was rated as the No. 7 player at any position in the state of New York. After redshirting as a true freshman, he caught 23 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. Those numbers were good for fifth, fifth and tied for third, respectively, on the team.