Missed kick, shaky defense down Pitt in double OT


Heading into its game against No. 24 Duke, the Pitt football team knew receiver Jamison Crowder would make a difference for the Blue Devils.

“Hopefully he didn’t get his flu shot and gets the flu on Friday or something,” Pitt’s secondary coach Troy Douglas said jokingly to media last Wednesday.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, the senior didn’t take ill, and he finished Saturday with more receiving yards (165) than the rest of his team combined (101), as well as two touchdowns. His massive day propelled to a Duke 51-48 double overtime win.

“I just felt in the zone today,” Crowder said afterwards.

He did the most damage in the opening half, as both of his touchdowns and 149 of his yards came then, but the danger he posed throughout created opportunities for other aspects of the offense to succeed.

“Thats why they’re a good offense. If you commit too much to one or the other, be it the run game or the throw game, [or] one receiver, you have a tendency to be vulnerable to some other [areas],” head coach Paul Chryst said.

The first display of his ability came on the visitors’ first drive of the game. After moving into Pitt territory, Blue Devils quarterback Anthony Boone lofted a deep throw down the right sideline. With Panthers freshman cornerback Avonte Maddox containing him step for step, Crowder created separation at the last second by pushing off with his arm before corralling the pass for a 39-yard score.

While some thought the move warranted an offensive pass interference call rather than the defensive infraction given to Maddox, Crowder’s skill was evident nonetheless.

That play set the tone for his matchup with the Panther secondary for the rest of the first half. While the battle continued, Crowder was in control.

A sequence similar to that first touchdown played out in the second quarter when Crowder again took to the outside from his spot to the right of the line of scrimmage and ran straight ahead. Maddox again stayed with his mark until the ball arrived just before the goal line, just enough of a gap for the receiver to possess the ball before tumbling into the end zone untouched: a 45-yard completion.

“At the time the ball was caught, he’s right in his hip pocket,” Ray Vinopal said of Maddox’s play on both touchdowns. “That’s just a kid making a play.”

Crowder nearly found the end zone for a third time with the clock running down at the end of second quarter. With redshirt junior corner Lafayette Pitts opposing him, Crowder took that familiar route, this time stopping and starting his run in an unsuccessful effort to lose Pitts.

Crowder neared the end zone, sandwiched between the sideline and Pitts, and Boone had little room for error with his attempt.

The two connected once again, and Crowder got a foot in bounds at the one-yard line for a 27-yard gain with less than 10 seconds left.

The Blue Devils scored on their next play, tying the game at 28, after the extra point to go into halftime with momentum and the knowledge that they’d get the ball back to start the third quarter.

Vinopal didn’t think the Devils’ success through the air, specifically with Crowder, came as a result of something he and the rest of the defensive backs did wrong.

“I don’t know how to respond to anyone who thinks that we were in bad position on 21 of those points that were scored,” Vinopal said. “They made plays. They’ve got a good receiver. Our guys were in good position. Simple as that, they made the play.”