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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.

UMass adds Florida State, Pitt, Auburn to future schedules beyond 2021

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It’s apparently a big week on the schedule front for FBS independents.

While UConn and Maryland announced a new home-and-home series in what is always going to be known as the Randy Edsall bowl, fellow New England independent UMass had a number of dates added to their calendar this week too.

According to the school, the Minutemen have confirmed several dates and games against Power Five opponents as well as a host of other smaller programs being added to the team’s future docket including:

  • at Pitt on Sept. 4, 2021
  • at Florida State on Oct. 23, 2021
  • at Auburn on Sept. 2, 2023

In addition, FCS foes like Merrimack (Nov. 4, 2023) and Wagner (Sept. 21, 2024) were scheduled. Two other contests were moved as well, including a game against Boston College from Sept. 2022 to Sept. 6, 2025. A game against New Mexico State was shifted up into Week 0 and is now set for Aug. 26, 2023 as well.

The moves give UMass five of their 12 games for 2021-2024 while there’s even more work left to be done beyond that.

“We’ve been hard at work over the last nine months building competitive future schedules that will allow our Independent program to grow and be challenged,” AD Ryan Bamford said in a release. “We are pleased with our scheduling progress and ability to secure agreements with a mix of Power Five, Group of Five and regional FCS opponents.”

The Minutemen host Coastal Carolina on Saturday and have notable games coming up against Army, Northwestern and BYU down the stretch in 2019.

Fenway Bowl to pit ACC vs. American

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Fenway Park confirmed on Monday that “America’s most beloved ballpark” will indeed host a bowl game this winter, as was reported back in April.

While full details are still forthcoming, the game will pit teams from the ACC and the American.

Fenway Park has hosted a number of games in recent years, but this will be the venue’s first college postseason game. Some might even say Fenway’s entire 107-year history has been building toward the opportunity to host a 7-5 ACC team against an 8-4 American team.

The Red Sox will become the sixth MLB franchise to host a college bowl game in recent years, joining the Yankees (Pinstripe Bowl), Diamondbacks (Cheez-It Bowl), Rays (Gasparilla Bowl), Marlins (the defunct Miami Beach Bowl) and Giants (Redbox Bowl, since moved to Levi’s Stadium).

 

No. 13 Penn State sidesteps Pitt in 100th (and temporarily final) meeting

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A week of verbal jabbing and pettiness culminated in the 100th meeting in the rivalry between No. 13 Penn State (3-0) and Pitt (1-2) on Saturday afternoon. After a delayed start to the game due to weather conditions in the area, the last regular-season meeting between the two programs on the schedule certainly felt like an intense game, as Penn State held off the Panthers 17-10 to move to 3-0.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford was under pressure all day against a feisty Pitt defensive line, and at times he certainly looked like a young quarterback who was feeling the pressure. He ended the game completed less than half of his passes (14-of-30) but did throw for 222 yards without an interception (one was waved off due to a Pitt penalty). Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett was much more effective with shorter passes and lobs that were somehow caught by his receivers for big gains, as he passed for 372 yards. But like Clifford, Pickett was unable to get his team in the endzone through the air. The only touchdown allowed by the Penn State defense came near the end of the first half with Vincent Davis briefly giving the Panthers a 10-7 lead.

Penn State managed to tie the game just before halftime on a school-record 57-yard field goal by Jordan Stoudt, avoiding a second straight week trailing their opponent at halftime at home. Penn State’s defense wasn’t perfect in the second half, but the Nittany Lions shutout the Panthers after the break. A 13-yard run up the middle of the Pitt defense gave Penn State the go-ahead and eventual game-winning score in the third quarter. From there, it was all about the defense.

Both teams had their share of struggles on third downs, but both teams thrived on fourth down. Pitt was a perfect 3-for-3 on fourth down, which made a decision by Pat Narduzzi to kick a field goal from the Penn State one-yard line all the more puzzling in the fourth quarter. With 4:54 to play and trailing by seven, Narduzzi sent kicker Alex Kessman out for a 19-yard try that bounced off the goal post.

There are no meetings between the two schools currently scheduled for the future, so, for now, the 100th meeting will give Penn State the in-state bragging rights. Pitt won the first meeting in this four-year revival, but Penn State won the last three meetings, including two in decisive fashion. For now, Penn State will get a bye week to prepare for their Big Ten opener in two weeks at Maryland. Maryland will be looking to bounce back after being upset in southeastern Pennsylvania just prior to Penn State finishing off Pittsburgh. Maryland was upset at Temple as their high-powered offense was nowhere to be seen.

Pitt will return to action next week with another good quality opponent. The Panthers host UCF a week after the Knights are playing Stanford.

Penn State draws even with Pitt at halftime thanks to school-record 57-yard field goal

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Penn State nearly found themselves in the same halftime deficit at home from a week ago, but a school-record field goal from 57 yards by Jordan Stoudt tied the game at 10-10 with just seconds to go until halftime. Pitt took a late first-half lead on a Vincent Davis touchdown run before Penn State was able to answer before halftime.

In a slightly familiar theme for the first half for Penn State, a slow start on offense must be overcome. Last week, Penn State trailed Buffalo at halftime by an identical 10-7 deficit, and Buffalo also took the lead late in the first half. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett got off to a rough start but has calmed down and found his poise with short, high-percentage passes to methodically attack the Penn State defense. Pitt’s gameplan to work the clock has worked with the Panthers controlling the football for nearly double the time Penn State has held the football, and the defense for the Panthers have not made things easy for Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford.

Clifford has been under pressure for much of the first half. If not for an 85-yard run by Journey Brown on third-and-long from the Penn State three-yard line in the first quarter, Penn State may have only had three points the way the first half has gone. Brown’s long run led to Penn State opening the scoring with a Devyn Ford touchdown run from the one-yard line to cap a 98-yard touchdown drive.

So once again, Penn State has some work to do with the offense at halftime. Protecting Clifford has to be a priority. Meanwhile, Pitt can stick to their slow and methodic style until pressed to make a change. This is the kind of game that plays to Pitt’s advantage.