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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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People sit inside of Redhawk Coffee on Meyran Avenue.
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People sit inside of Redhawk Coffee on Meyran Avenue.
The best cafés to caffeinate and cram for finals
By Irene Castillo, Senior Staff Writer • April 22, 2024
Fresh Perspective | Final Farewell
By Julia Smeltzer, Digital Manager • April 19, 2024

Pitt football suffers karmic loss to Wake Forest

Wake+Forest+wide+receiver+Jahmal+Banks+%2880%29+runs+after+a+catch+past+Pittsburgh+defensive+back+Javon+McIntyre+%287%29+during+the+second+half+of+an+NCAA+college+football+game+in+Winston-Salem%2C+N.C.%2C+Saturday%2C+Oct.+21%2C+2023.
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Wake Forest wide receiver Jahmal Banks (80) runs after a catch past Pittsburgh defensive back Javon McIntyre (7) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.

In 2021, Pitt defeated Wake Forest to capture its first ACC championship. The game is remembered for a fake-slide pulled off by Kenny Pickett, which was quickly banned by the NCAA. That single play gave the Panthers’ momentum, but caused a complete rule change in regards to players giving themselves up.

In 2023, karma came to bite the Panthers (2-5, 1-3 ACC), as they failed to follow up last week’s upset victory over top-15 ranked Louisville with a 21-17 loss to the Demon Deacons (4-3, 1-3 ACC). The Panthers’ held the lead late. But the same rule change that Pickett’s run caused gave the Demon Deacons the ball with under a minute left, and they took advantage.

Pitt began its first drive of the game at their own 25 yard line. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Christian Veilleux completed a few passes to first-year wide receiver Kenny Johnson to gain some first downs, looking accurate on short passes. A false start halted the Panthers’ momentum, but sophomore wide receiver Daejon Reynolds caught a bullet pass from Veilleux for a gain of 31 yards to reignite the drive. Veilleux capped off the drive with a seven yard pass on third down for a Johnson touchdown. 

Wake Forest relied heavily on junior running back Justice Ellison in their first drive. Nevertheless, the Panthers’ defense contained the run game for a quick three-and-out. 

The Panthers’ second drive wasn’t as effective as the first. A big hit on junior wide receiver Konata Mumpfield and another false start nullified the offense’s efforts. A bad punt from sophomore punter Caleb Junko set up the Demon Deacons with great field position. 

On the ensuing drive, more pressure from the Panthers’ front seven caused another Wake Forest three-and-out. 

Senior running back C’bo Fleminster rushed for 30 yards in the first two snaps of Pitt’s third drive, but a fumbled snap on third down forced a punt and finished the drive and the 1st quarter on a low note. 

Wake Forest continued its heavy use of Ellison, as he exploited the Panthers’ missed tackles. But it didn’t matter much, as the Panthers’ defense forced another punt, which allowed redshirt senior cornerback MJ Devonshire to return it to the 47 yard line and gave the offense great field position. 

In the following drive, the Wake Forest defense limited the pass game. The Panthers went for it on 4th down but failed to convert, resulting in a turnover on downs. 

After the first drive, the Panthers struggled to get back into the red zone, but the defense contained the run game and Marucci’s long pass attempts. Senior cornerback Marquis Williams intercepted Marucci, but a holding penalty reversed it. 

The Demon Deacons shifted between Ellison and sophomore running back Demond Claiborne. Wake Forest failed to convert a first down up to this point. But with five minutes left in the first half, they finally did. The Demon Deacons followed this up with a gain of 15 yards from an Ellison run. But once again, the Panthers’ defense came up big and stopped their drive. 

It seemed as if both team’s punters worked overtime throughout the first half, but after sophomore quarterback Santino Marucci’s first completion to Claiborne on the redzone, Claiborne made an explosive 18-yard run for a touchdown. 

The Demon Deacons began the second half with a quick three-and-out, after great tackles-for-loss from Devonshire and sophomore safety Javon Mciintyre. However, the Panthers’ offensive struggles continued. An inconsistent run-game, inaccurate passes from Veilleux and constant defensive pressure didn’t allow the offense to establish their scheme. The defense continued to shine, with senior cornerback AJ Woods sacking Marucci and forcing the Demon Deacons to punt again. 

In the next possession, senior running back Fleminster began Pitt’s drive with a 30-yard run. Wake Forest’s defense came up big, as they stopped Fleminster from gaining one yard on fourth down. 

The following possession saw Woods sack Marucci once again. Panthers’ junior safety Phillip O’Brien intercepted the Deacons quarterback, giving his offense possession. The Panthers’ offense capitalized, as Veilleux connected with senior wide receiver Bub Means for a gain of 31 yards. Junior kicker Ben Sauls finished the drive with a 41-yard field goal to give the Panthers a three point lead.  

In the following drive, the Demon Deacons went for it on 4th down. But Devonshire was ready, denying a conversion. The Panthers offense, however, did not take advantage of the turnover-on-downs, and the Panthers again sent the punt unit out. 

In the next drive, the Demon Deacons’ offense revived after big runs from Claiborne, and a third down trick play that shifted the offensive momentum. Claiborne finished the drive with a big 42-yard touchdown run that put the Demon Deacons 14-10 over the Panthers with three minutes left in the game. 

The Panthers immediately responded with an explosive scoring drive of their own, with first down conversions from Fleminster and Reynolds. Veilleux threw a pass deep up the middle to Means for a touchdown with 1:30 remaining in the fourth. 

Junior wide receiver Jahmal Banks made a big, 26-yard catch to place the Demon Deacons on Pitt territory. But Devonshire again came up big, as he intercepted Marucci with a minute left in the game. 

Somehow, the offense did not convert a first down, and the Demon Deacons got the ball back with 40 seconds left. Marucci came up big, throwing for 49 yards and a touchdown pass to Cameron with seven seconds left in the game. 

The loss marks the fifth loss of the season for the Panthers. And it doesn’t get easier for the Panthers as they continue their road trip next week against No. 15 Notre Dame (6-2, 0-0 independent).

About the Contributor
Nicolas Munera, Staff Writer
Nicolas Munera is a staff writer for The Pitt News. He is part of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Economics and minoring in international relations. He is embarking on his first year working for The Pitt News.