Chris Nailedit: Panthers upend No. 2 Clemson, 43-42


Chris Blewitt’s final field goal secured Pitt’s victory against No. 2 Clemson on Saturday. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

Pat Narduzzi has his signature win.

Thanks to a game-winning 48-yard field goal with six seconds left by kicker Chris Blewitt, the Pitt football team pulled off perhaps the biggest upset of the college football season, defeating the No. 2 Clemson Tigers on the road by a score of 43-42.

Pitt’s offense was firing on its first possession, as Nathan Peterman connected with tight end Jaymar Parrish for a 44-yard gain on the second play of the game, leading to an eventual 15-yard touchdown shovel pass from Peterman to fullback George Aston to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead.

Clemson looked like it was on the verge of scoring, holding the ball at the Pitt 13. But Deshaun Watson threw a fade that Ryan Lewis reached for and snagged, securing his first interception since his game-clinching one against Penn State in week two.

Pitt was unable to score on the ensuing drive though, going three-and-out after a holding penalty. Clemson responded after the stop, as the Tigers drove down the field, with running back Wayne Gallman scoring a one-yard touchdown to tie the game at seven with 7:19 left in the first quarter.

The Panthers would retake the lead again, as Peterman beat the blitz and lofted a pass to James Conner, who ran it in for a 46-yard touchdown to give Pitt a 14-7 lead with 5:28 left in the first half.

On a fourth-and-goal attempt, it appeared that Pitt had totally swung momentum, as the call on the field was a Gallman fumble and 100-yard recovery by Jordan Whitehead for a touchdown. But on review, officials determined that Gallman had crossed the goalline before losing the ball, changing the score from 21-7 to 14-14.

Pitt looked like they had Clemson stopped on its next possession, but Terrish Webb dropped an easy interception and referees flagged Ryan Lewis for pass interference, extending the Tigers drive. They would score on a 15-yard pass from Deshaun Watson to Mike Williams, giving Clemson its first lead of the game.

The Panthers struck big again on their next possession, though, as Peterman connected with Orndoff for a 55-yard touchdown. But kicker Chris Blewitt missed the extra point, leaving Pitt trailing 21-20.

On its next possession, Pitt showed some gall. Following an interception by Avonte Maddox, the Panthers drove the ball all the way down the field but stalled at the one. On fourth down, Pitt went for it, and Peterman tossed the ball to the back of the end zone to Aston, who hauled in his second touchdown catch of the game. Pitt led 27-21 with just over two minutes left in the half.

That lead would last just over one minute though, as Clemson ripped off a six play, 75 yard drive capped off by a 13 yard Artavis Scott touchdown catch, giving Pitt a 28-27 lead.

Pitt had a chance to drive and take the lead, but Nathan Peterman lost a fumble. On Clemson’s next drive, Pitt safety Jordan Whitehead suffered an arm injury and was carted off the field. The Tigers scored on the next play on a 27-yard touchdown pass to Deon Cain.

The Panthers responded again, scoring again on a seven-yard shovel pass to Orndoff following a controversial unnecessary roughness penalty. Pitt elected not to go for two, so the deficit remained one with 4:35 left in the game.

But the Tigers offense kept rolling, as it effortlessly marched down the field again, and Gallman scored his third touchdown of the game, moving the score to 42-34.

Just when it seemed Clemson had Pitt on the ropes, Watson made another mistake. On Pitt’s three yard line with under six minutes left, he forced a pass that Pitt linebacker Saleem Brightwell intercepted and ran to the 30 yard line.

Pitt took advantage of the turnover, as a drive extended by a defensive holding call ended with a 20 yard touchdown run by James Conner. But Peterman couldn’t complete a two-point conversion attempt, and the deficit sat at two with 5:17 remaining in the game.

Clemson had another shot to seal the game, as it went for it on fourth-and-one. But Matt Galambos stuffed Wayne Gallman, giving Pitt life.

Peterman took advantage, connecting with Orndoff for a 21-yard pass and four yard pass, setting up a potential game-winning field goal for Blewitt.

Blewitt hit the 48-yarder, giving Pitt the 43-42 lead with six seconds left.

Clemson couldn’t return the ensuing kickoff for a score as time expired, sealing the upset win and potentially eliminating the Tigers from the College Football Playoff race.

Pitt became bowl eligible with the victory, with its record sitting at 6-4. They will look to continue to build momentum next Saturday, when they host Duke at Heinz Field. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.