Hideout – Amid a litany of mistakes, Pitt extends his winning streak

If there’s a limit to how many mistakes a team can make and still win, Pitt put it to the test in Saturday’s 2022 home finals.

With a solid Duke team on the other touchline, the Panthers endured a litany of errors, indiscipline and downright poor play for almost 209 minutes at Acrisure Stadium, but with luck and some sporadic successes, they managed to come out with the tiniest win and the Blue Beat Devils 28-26.

“Our boys found a way to win,” said head coach Pat Narduzzi after the game. “We did it the hard way.”

In fact, the list of mistakes Pitt made in winning is long.

The Panthers committed two turnovers; both came from interceptions, and they ended Pitt’s first two drives in the second half, effectively destroying any momentum the team had built as they ended the first half with an impressive touchdown drive to take a 20-14 lead in the to bring halftime.

Each of these interceptions was amazing on its own. The first appeared to be a misunderstanding between quarterback Kedon Slovis and running back Israel Abanikanda, who was reportedly the intended target — but a Duke defender was much sooner on the turn to catch the pass. On the second interception, Slovis scrambled, scanned the field, and threw straight to another Duke defender.

Pitt’s defense managed to contain the Blue Devils after those interceptions, forcing a punt after the first and a turnover on downs after the second. But this unit would make many mistakes of its own.

The defense’s first big mistake came when the Panthers had Duke in third and sixth near midfield and quarterback Riley Leonard saw Jordan Moore all alone deep in the field. It was an easy throw for Leonard and Moore had no trouble getting the 49-yard touchdown.

Later, while leading 28-20, Pitt Duke had 19 in fourth and 18th place against the Panthers with less than a minute left in the game. But another mishap left running back Jaylen Coleman at the goal line for a touchdown that could have ended the game.

And then there was Pitt’s punt unit. The Panthers, who have been struggling all season, had even more trouble on Saturday. Duke’s first touchdown drive was just 42 yards after a partially blocked punt gave the Blue Devils good field position. And the visitors’ final strike began on the Pitt 22 after punter Caleb Junko dropped the snap and had to pull back to regain it before being tackled for a 22-yard loss.

It was just the punters. The punt coverage unit also played their part when Javon McIntyre was called to rough the punter; That penalty got Duke 15 yards and an automatic first down after the defense stopped the Blue Devils and forced fourth-place finishes.

The resulting extended drive ended with Duke scoring his second touchdown of the game.

All in all, Pitt committed eight penalties and turned the ball over twice, gave up six conversions on 11 third-down attempts in the second half, had a punt partially blocked and fumbled the snap on another punt.

Alongside all of these failures was Pitt’s insult, which stumbled through another inconsistent performance, offsetting some moments of success with extended sequences of all-too-familiar futility. The Panthers finished the game with just 310 yards in offense, their lowest total all season, didn’t score after halftime, and entered Duke territory only twice in the second half.

Despite all of this, Pitt still came out with a win. It didn’t hurt that Duke first-year coach Mike Elko went for two on the Blue Devils’ third touchdown; if the transformation had been good, it would have been 28:22. Instead, the failed game left Duke by eight, and when the Blue Devils scored again, they had to attempt two points again to level the score.

Both two-point conversion attempts failed, and Pitt escaped with a two-point win as a result.

The win gives Pitt a 7-4 overall record and a 4-3 rating in ACC play. The Panthers will advance to the regular-season finals next Saturday in Miami on a three-game winning streak.

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