by Matt Farago for Football Hotbed
Pittsburgh – On paper the Miami Hurricanes regular season finale against an unranked (4-7) Pitt team was expected to be a tune-up prior to the ACC Championship, and allow the Canes to add to their FBS record 15 straight wins.
On Heinz Field natural grass however, Pittsburgh freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett lead the Panthers to 24-14 upset win over the Hurricanes.
Pickett looked like a veteran and not a freshman making his first start, rushing for two touchdowns and passing for 193 yards and another score.
While the Hurricanes were unable to convert on two unforced Pitt fumbles in the first half going three and out on both drives, and mustered just 23 yards in the first quarter, the fewest of any quarter this season.
The Canes would take a 7-3 lead when Mailk Rosier tossed a 24 yard TD pass to Ammon Richards in the second, but the Panthers responded on a Pickett 6 yard TD run to retake the lead at the half 10-7.
Miami came into Friday’s game 4-0 in games when trailing at the half this season, but the offense sputtered and was held to a season-low 232 yards and converted only 4 of 15 on 3rd downs. While the offense didn’t turn the ball over, they were forced to punt 10 times.
Pitt added some insurance in the third on a Kenny Pickett 5 yard shovel-pass to Qadree Ollison. Pickett would then put the game away on a 4th down play running in from 22 yards to put the Panthers up 24-7
Rosier (15 of 34 for 187 yards 2 TDS) who was held in check much of the day by a Pitt defense ranked among the worst in FBS this season was benched in the fourth quarter for Evan Shirreffs.
Shirreffs only had the chance to attempt two passes. both were incomplete before Rosier would return for the final scoring drive – tossing a 39 yard TD pass to Braxton Berrios to cut the lead to 10. The Canes would recover an onside kick but fumble three plays later.
“I felt like I let my team down, and we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities like we should.” Rosier said following the game.
“Coach told me to remember this feeling and just get ready for next week.”
Pitt ends their season without a bowl game for the first time since 2007, when they defeated No.2 WVU in the final regular season game. The win is also their second straight win over a No. 2 ranked opponent, after beating the eventual National Champions, Clemson last season.
Miami will meet the Tigers next week in the ACC Championship game, and can only hope the big picture plays out in a way that has the Hurricanes in the College Football Playoff.
“I think there is an awful lot to play for. We have no idea what’s going to happen in the big picture. We don’t know.” coach Mark Richt said after the loss.
“Bottom line is I’ve never won an ACC Championship. My guys have never played in the game. We’re about to do that, and that’s a lot to play for.”