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The Pitt News

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Chris Matthews poses for a photo at the Global Hub in Posvar Hall.
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Pitt football can’t complete upset, falls to No. 4 Florida State 24-7

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Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
FSU redshirt junior wide receiver Ja’Khi Douglas (0) protects the football while being tackled by a Pitt player during Saturday afternoon’s game at Acrisure Stadium.

Pitt football has a history of upsetting highly-ranked opponents throughout the years. From taking down No. 2 West Virginia in the 2007 Backyard Brawl to eliminating No. 2 Miami from playoff contention in 2017, the Panthers are always looking to takedown top-tier teams. 

But Pitt football just couldn’t etch another upset to their resume on Saturday night, as the Panthers (2-7, 1-4 ACC) fell to No. 4 Florida State (9-0, 7-0 ACC) 24-7 in a hard-fought affair. Pitt trailed by just three points at halftime, but couldn’t pull it together in the second half to earn the upset win. 

Pitt football head coach Pat Narduzzi was proud of his team’s effort, despite the loss. But the head coach said the Panthers made too many costly mistakes to beat the Seminoles. 

“I’m just proud of the effort out kids put out today,” Narduzzi said. “They played their tails off, but made way too many mistakes. When you look at it, same thing as last week, it’s what we did, not what they did.”

The Panthers’ defense performed well early, holding the Seminoles to just 10 first-half points. But with Pitt’s offense struggling, its defense fell apart down the stretch.

Pitt redshirt senior linebacker Brandon George said his unit just wanted to come out and play their best against the highly-ranked Seminoles. 

“We came out just trying to play football, like we have since we were young,” George said. “That’s the reason everybody comes out here. Everybody all around the country comes out and plays football and that’s what we came out to do.”

Seminole redshirt senior quarterback Jordan Travis led his team over the Panthers in the game. The Heisman candidate threw for 360 yards and one touchdown, while also earning another touchdown with his legs. 

Florida State began the game showing off its passing prowess, as Travis completed two passes to start the drive. The Seminoles looked capable of marching down the field and scoring a fast-opening touchdown. But the Panthers’ defense stepped up, as redshirt senior David Green forced a fumble, allowing Pitt to recover and take possession near midfield. 

The Panthers’ offense just couldn’t capitalize following the turnover, going three and out on their first drive. While Pitt’s offense struggled, its defense stepped up. The Panthers’ defense held Florida State scoreless for the entire first quarter, forcing a turnover on downs and a three-and-out on the Seminoles’ next two drives. 

Pitt’s defense came up big right at the end of the first quarter. On third and one, with mere seconds left in the quarter, George tackled Travis for a loss of one, which forced the Seminoles to punt. 

At the end of the first quarter, the Panthers and Seminoles were locked at 0-0. 

The Panther offense finally made some moves at the start of the second quarter. On second and 10, Pitt redshirt sophomore quarterback Christain Veilleux connected with junior wide receiver Konata Mumpfield, who rushed down the field toward the endzone. But right before crossing the goal line, Mumpfield fumbled the ball, allowing Florida State to recover and take possession. 

The play seriously hurt Pitt’s chances of an upset, Veilleux said Mumpfield kept his head up after the costly fumble.

“He was good,” Veilleux said. “I mean I told him we did everything we could. That’s football. Sometimes you’re going to be running and the guy swings his arm in the perfect spot and knocks the ball out.”

The blunder robbed Pitt of a great scoring opportunity. Once again, Pitt’s defense was forced to step up to account for the offense’s mistakes. The Panther defense forced two straight three-and-outs to start the second quarter. 

Pitt’s offense eventually settled down and sustained a drive downfield midway through the second quarter. The Panthers utilized two solid rushing plays to get beyond the 50-yard line. 

Then redshirt senior Bub Means stepped up. The redshirt senior hauled in a 29-yard pass from Veilleux to move the Panthers within striking distance. Means then capped off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown reception, as he leaped over a Seminole defender to haul in the pass with his fingertips. Means’ efforts put the Panthers up 7-0 with just under nine minutes left in the first half. 

But the Seminoles rebounded quickly following the Pitt touchdown. Florida State rallied, as Travis completed four solid passes to move the Seminoles into the red zone. Travis capped of the drive by pushing through the Panthers’ defensive line for a one-yard touchdown rush. With four minutes remaining in the first half, the Panthers and Seminoles were tied at 7-7. 

The Seminoles followed up their first touchdown with another scoring drive late in the second quarter. On third and ten, Travis connected with Seminole redshirt junior tight end Kyle Morlock for a pickup of 63 yards. The Seminoles ultimately failed to find a touchdown but capitalized on a field goal to take a 10-7 lead right at the end of the first half. 

Pitt football entered the locker room down 10-7, but had a lot to hope for in the second half.

The Panther defense came out of halftime firing on all cylinders. During Florida State’s first drive, on third and 16, redshirt senior linebacker Shayne Simon came up big for the Panthers, sacking Travis for a loss of eight yards.

But  Pitt’s defense just couldn’t keep the Seminoles at bay for the whole game. With just over three minutes left in the third quarter, Florida State drove downfield, mounting a long drive to tire out the strong Panthers’ defense. Travis then connected with redshirt junior tight end Markeston Douglas for a 22-yard touchdown, which put Florida State up 17-7. 

Florida State continued to pour on points in its next drive with a minute left in the third quarter. On just the second play of the drive, Florida State redshirt junior runningback Trey Benson rushed right up the middle for a 55-yard touchdown. Benson’s efforts gave the Seminoles a comfortable 24-7 lead near the end of the third quarter. 

With the game slipping out of reach, the Panthers just couldn’t step up. With 11 minutes remaining in the game, Veilleux threw an inception, which all but sealed Pitt’s fate. 

The Seminoles cruised through the fourth quarter, walking away with a 24-7 victory and keeping their College Football Playoff dreams alive. Pitt, meanwhile, is officially eliminated from bowl eligibility. 

Still, George said the Panthers will remain focused, despite having no chance of playing in the postseason.

“People are going to try to address the fact that we’re out of bowl contention,” George said. “We are going to go play Syracuse [next week]. We are going forward one step at a time.”

Pitt football will now travel to New York City to take on Syracuse at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 11. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and coverage will air on the ACC Network.

About the Contributor
Brian Sherry, Sports Editor