Five sexiest plays in recent Pitt football history

By Jermaine Sykes, Senior Staff Writer

The best part of Saturdays in the fall for many Pitt students is traveling to the North Shore to watch the Panthers play at Acrisure Stadium. The atmosphere is intense, the band is loud and the bright yellow towels wave everywhere.

But nothing gets the fans going more than a highlight play. Not just any highlight play, but one that makes the fans yell and think, “Ooh, that’s sexy.”

Here are five of the sexiest plays in recent Pitt football history, starting with the tight end that flew. 

No. 5: Gavin Bartholomew’s hurdle vs. Tennessee

Athleticism from a big man will always make the fans go wild. This play comes from the 2022 season against SEC opponent Tennessee. Sophomore tight end Gavin Bartholomew got open on a wheel route up the right sideline, and senior quarterback Kedon Slovis found him in stride.

Fans, players and coaches all thought his catch would end in a 25-yard gain for a first down with the secondary swarming. But not Bartholomew, who completely cleared the Tennessee safety on his way to a 57-yard touchdown which gave the Panthers a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter.

The Panthers would lose a heartbreaker to Tennessee that evening, but Bartholomew’s display of athleticism sure did give the Pitt-faithful something to cheer about.

No. 4: Sirvocea Dennis’ pick-six vs. Clemson

The 2021 ACC championship season is obviously one of Pitt’s best football seasons in decades. It also gave fans one of the most exciting plays in recent college football history.

The play came vs. Clemson. Trailing 14-7 at halftime, the Tigers received the ball to start the third quarter and quickly crossed midfield. Sophomore quarterback DJ Uiagalelei took the snap on 2nd and eight and quickly threw a shovel pass to his running back. To his surprise, the pass ended up in the hands of junior linebacker Sirvocea Dennis, who broke through the defensive front untouched.

Dennis put a stiff arm on Uiagalelei and took the pass 53 yards in the opposite direction to electrify the Panther Pitt and give the Panthers a 21-7 lead that they wouldn’t surrender. 

No. 3: The “Pitt Special” vs. UCF

The Panthers call western Pennsylvania their home. But in this play, they paid homage to their professional counterparts in the east.

Down six vs. No. 15 UCF, the Panthers were poised for a devastating loss, relinquishing a commanding early lead. Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett drove down to the Knight’s four-yard line. But the Panthers found themselves in a 4th and three situation with just 53 seconds left in the game. It was do or die for the Panthers.

To UCF’s surprise, the Panthers drew up a “Philly Special”-type play and senior wide receiver Aaron Mathews found Pickett in the end zone, which after a successful extra point attempt, gave the Panthers a one-point lead.

The gutsy call would give the Panthers the win and snap the Knight’s 25 consecutive regular-season win streak. The play would rank higher on this list if it weren’t for another gutsy play from Pickett.

No. 2: MJ Devonshire’s pick six vs. West Virginia

The most recent addition to this list, junior cornerback MJ Devonshire instantly became a Pitt legend in this year’s return of the Backyard Brawl.

The stakes and the atmosphere of the moment are among the best in Pittsburgh sports history. 

After a back-and-forth shootout, the Panthers and the Mountaineers were tied at 31 with just 3:19 remaining in the game. Senior quarterback JT Daniels and the Mountaineers drove to their own 39-yard line, looking to put the game away and upset the Panthers on the road.

Devonshire had other plans, intercepting a tipped Daniel’s pass and following blocks all the way to the Panthers’ end zone, giving them a 38-31 lead. 

The interception return gave the Panthers a win over their archrival and provided a legendary rivalry with possibly its most legendary moment.

No. 1: The fake slide vs. Wake Forest

Fittingly, Kenny Pickett made the play that bookended the best Pitt football campaign in decades. “Sexy” is a subjective term, but no one can doubt the execution of Pickett’s fake slide vs. Wake Forest in the 2021 ACC chdampionship game.

On the first drive of the game, Pickett gave college football fans a glimpse at his athleticism, escaping the pocket and scrambling for a big gain.

But it didn’t end there — Pickett hit the Deacon’s defense with a “fake slide,” setting the college football world on fire, on his way to a 58-yard touchdown.

The NCAA banned the “fake slide” just days after the ACC championship, but it didn’t matter because the Panthers won the game convincingly. Pickett’s creativity and gutsiness in this play make it one of the most memorable plays in program history, and a true Heisman moment for our almost-Heisman winning quarterback.