Panthers finish regular season on a high note, dominate Hurricanes 42-16


Ethan Shulman | Staff Photographer

Quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) passes the ball off to junior running back Israel Abanikanda (2) during Pitt football’s game against Rhode Island on Sept. 24.

By Brian Sherry, Senior Staff Writer

Miami ended Pitt’s playoff hopes last season when the Hurricanes came to Heinz Field and upset the Panthers 38-34.

But the Panthers (8-4, 5-3 ACC) got their revenge Saturday night in Miami, thrashing the Hurricanes (5-7, 3-5 ACC) 42-16 on their home turf. The win closes out Pitt’s regular season campaign, as the Panthers will now look ahead to bowl season. 

The Panther offense was firing at all cylinders. Senior quarterback Kedon Slovis and senior wide receiver Jared Wanye connected for three touchdown passes and 199 yards. The entire running back unit also dominated, rushing for a combined 237 yards and three touchdowns.

Pitt’s defense also continued its dominant 2022 campaign, racking up three turnovers against the Hurricanes. The Panthers capitalized off Miami quarterback troubles to force two interceptions and six sacks.

The Hurricanes began the opening drive with a strong passing attack. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Van Dyke connected with fifth-year senior tight end Will Mallory for 39 yards and Miami looked poised to score on the first drive.

But then Pitt flipped the script.

Senior linebacker SirVocea Dennis picked off Van Dyke and cruised down the field for a 67 yard return. The Panthers’ offense capitalized on the timely defensive turnover, driving 30 yards into the endzone. Abanikanda capped off the short drive, pushing into the endzone for a two-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. 

Miami endured quarterback troubles early on. Van Dyke exited the game with an injury following the interception. First-year Jacurri Brown entered the game to replace the veteran Miami signal caller. 

But the Panther defense took advantage of the Hurricane’s change at quarterback to force another turnover. This time redshirt first-year defensive back Javon McIntrye hauled in the interception. But the Panther offense couldn’t replicate its successful first drive. After driving 38 yards downfield, the Panthers turned the ball over on downs on Miami’s one-yard line.

The Hurricanes made yet another change at quarterback, with first-year Jake Garcia entering in the waning moments of the first quarter. But the first-year found little success on his opening drive, completing just one pass for a loss of three yards. 

Slovis dominated the first quarter, completing six of seven passes for 137 yards in the quarter. Slovis connected Wayne for a 66-yard touchdown, giving the Panthers a 14-0 lead to end the first quarter. 

Pitt’s defense continued to rack up turnovers in the second quarter, as redshirt senior defensive back Erick Hallett II forced and recovered a fumble in the opening minutes of the period. Abanikanda capitalized off of the turnover, navigating his blocks to score an11-yard touchdown. The game was quickly getting out of hand, as Abanikanda’s touchdown put the Panthers up 21-0.  

But the Hurricanes had a stroke of luck with five minutes remaining in the first half. Defensive lineman Leonard Taylor III picked off Slovis at the line of scrimmage, giving Miami possession in scoring position. But the Hurricanes could not find the endzone, ultimately failing a fake field goal attempt on fourth down. 

The Panthers capped off a dominant first half with another touchdown. Slovis found Wayne in the endzone, connecting for a 26-yard touchdown. Pitt headed to the locker room holding a 28-0 lead. 

Miami began the second half with another quarterback change, as Brown returned to the field. The Hurricanes drove down the field, finding success on the ground. Sophomore running back Jaylan Knighton picked up a 56 yard rush for the Hurricanes. But the offense fell flat in the red zone, settling for a field goal to cut the Panthers’ lead to 28-3. 

But Pitt responded quickly, utilizing short runs and passes to slowly drive down field. Slovis ultimately threw a seven yard pass to Wanye for their third touchdown connection to put the Panthers up by 32 points.  

Brown exited the game with an injury, forcing the Hurricanes to go back to Garcia. The first-year signal caller finally found success for the Hurricanes, connecting with Mallory for a four yard touchdown to make the score 35-9. Dennis and Miami sophomore wide receiver Jacolby Jones both received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for a scuffle after the touchdown. 

Pitt and Miami traded touchdowns in the final minutes of the game. Redshirt senior running back C’Bo Flemister rushed for a 26 yard touchdown to extend the Panthers’ lead to 42-9. But the Hurricanes quickly responded, as Garcia connected with sophomore wide receiver Xavier Restrepo for a four yard touchdown. 

The Panthers eventually ran out the clock to seal the 42-16 win. 

Pitt now shifts its focus to the postseason. The Panthers will find out their next opponent and which bowl they will play in on Dec. 5 at noon. The selection show will air on ESPN.