Takeaways | Both offense and defense shine in Pitt’s victory over Miami


Hannah Wilson | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) celebrates after a touchdown against Virginia Tech at Acrisure Stadium on Oct 8.

By Frankie Richetti, Senior Staff Writer

Pitt took control early and never looked back in its 42-16 win over Miami, snapping a four-game losing streak against the Hurricanes.

The win also clinched the Panthers’ fifth eighth win season under head coach Pat Narduzzi. It also presented the Panthers with the opportunity to win nine games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1982. Here are my takeaways.

November to remember

If you told Panthers fans at the beginning of the season that Pitt would go 8-4, they would likely be extremely disappointed considering all the hype surrounding the team coming into this year.

Overall, Pitt still underachieved, but there were bright spots in the way the team closed out the regular season. Just a month ago, the Panthers had a 4-4 record and were blown out by North Carolina. Since then, they ran the table, going undefeated in November.

Pitt finished the season just a game behind the Tar Heels in the ACC Coastal standings, falling just short of another ACC Championship game berth in Charlotte. The Panthers fell short in several winnable games in the first two months of the season which could have put them over the top in the standings. But now they put themselves in a position to play in a respectable bowl game and win their ninth game of the season.

For a program that flirted with mediocrity for the better part of the last four decades, winning nine games in consecutive seasons would be a big deal. If the Panthers take care of business in their bowl game, there is a shot they finish the year where they started — as a ranked team. 

Pitt is 1-4 in bowl games under Narduzzi, so it needs to flip the script. 

A complete offensive performance

Pitt fans waited for the Panthers to put together a complete offensive showing throughout their entire season.

They had to wait until the final week of the season for it, but it finally happened. 

The Panthers scored six offensive touchdowns on Saturday. Senior quarterback Kedon Slovis threw three of them, in what was undoubtedly his best showing in a Pitt uniform. Junior running back Israel Abanikanda continued his dominance, rushing 15 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Pitt senior running back C’Bo Flemister also rushed for a score.

Slovis connected with senior wide receiver Jared Wayne on all three touchdowns. Wayne caught the ball 11 times for 199 yards — all career-highs. Pitt amassed 504 total yards, with just an eight-yard differential in total passing and rushing yards.

Pitt exemplified the type of balance that the Panthers’ coaching staff searched for all season. The passing game showed flashes but never found any consistency throughout the year. You obviously would like for a performance like this much earlier in the season, but better late than never.

Defensive line depth on display

Prior to kick-off, Pitt announced that defensive linemen — senior Haba Baldonado and junior Calijah Kancey — would not suit up for the Panthers’ regular season finale. 

Replacing multiple starters on one unit is hard as is, let alone star caliber players like Baldonado and Kancey. But Pitt’s depth pieces took advantage of their opportunity.

Junior defensive lineman Dayon Hayes had a monster game, finishing with five tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks. Hayes, who was expected to have a breakout campaign, entered the game with no sacks on the year but wasted no time making up for it.

Another junior, Deandre Jules, also tallied a sack and a tackle for loss — his first of the season in each category. Hayes and Jules stepped up when called upon and showed how good they can be in the coming seasons.

The Panthers consistently have quality depth at the defensive line spot under Narduzzi and that proved true once again on Saturday. 

As a defense, the Panthers totaled six sacks, 11 tackles for loss and two interceptions. Pitt’s big day defensively was impossible without Jules and Hayes stepping up in the absence of two of the team’s best players.