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No. 2 Hurricanes Fall at Pitt, 24-14

No. 2 Hurricanes Fall at Pitt, 24-14

By David Villavicencio
HurricaneSports.com

PITTSBURGH – The Miami Hurricanes had their FBS-leading 15-game winning streak snapped Friday at Pitt, 24-14.
 
The No. 2 Hurricanes (10-1, 7-1 ACC) entered the final game of the 2017 regular season battle tested and unbeaten, but the Panthers (5-7, 3-5 ACC) played inspired football against their highest-ranked opponent of the season.
 
The Panthers got on the scoreboard first, taking advantage of beginning a drive in Miami territory and closing the possession with a 46-yard field goal by Alex Kessman. Pitt opened its second possession of the game on the Miami 45 and five plays later the freshman booted the ball through the uprights to take a 3-0 lead with 6:45 remaining in the first quarter.
 
Miami’s famous turnover chain made its first appearance of the day on the first snap of the second quarter. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett could not handle a shotgun snap that sailed high over his head from center Jimmy Morrissey and Miami sophomore linebacker Michael Pinckney corralled the loose ball to give the Canes the ball at the UM 49. The fumble recovery marked Pinckney’s second time wearing the turnover chain this season.
 
The Hurricanes took the lead with 7:03 left in the opening half, as Malik Rosier hit Ahmmon Richards for a 23-yard touchdown. Rosier’s pass was thrown to the sideline, where only Richards could catch it, and the sophomore receiver spun and dove for the pylon to put Miami ahead, 7-3.
 
Momentum stayed on Miami’s side, as safety Sheldrick Redwine delivered a big hit on Pitt tight end Chris Clark to force a fumble and fellow safety Jaquan Johnson scooped up the loose ball to give Miami the ball on its own 48. The safety tandem shared the turnover chain on the Miami sideline, with Johnson handing it to Redwine in recognition of his forced fumble. Redwine finished the game with a career-high 11 tackles (eight solo) and added a pass breakup.
 
Pitt regained the lead with 35 seconds to go before halftime, as Pickett scrambled into the end zone from six yards out to give the Panthers a 10-7 lead. Pickett, who is the first true freshman quarterback to start for Pitt since 2007, was 11-for-18 for 116 yards passing in the opening half and also led the Panthers with seven rushes for 36 yards and a touchdown in the first 30 minutes of play.
 
The Panthers took a 10-point lead with 1:47 remaining in the third quarter, as Pickett hit Qadree Ollison on a shovel pass for a five-yard touchdown that capped a nine-play, 65-yard scoring drive and gave Pitt a 17-7 lead.
 
Rosier made one of his biggest throws of the day on third-and-15 from the Miami 19. With just over a minute left in the third quarter and his team down 10, the redshirt junior threw a strike to tight end Christopher Herndon for 16 yards and a first down. But the Panthers forced a punt four snaps later and opened the fourth quarter with the ball.
 
While the Hurricanes’ season has been filled with late-game heroics, Miami entered the fourth quarter trailing for only the second time in 2017. The Canes managed to overcome an 8-point deficit to beat Georgia Tech, 25-24, on Oct. 14, but could not muster enough late-game magic at Heinz Field on Friday.
 
With 9:58 remaining in the game, redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs took over at quarterback for Miami. A new quarterback under center led to similar results for Miami’s offense, as the Hurricanes went three-and-out and punted for the 10th time in the game.
 
On third-and-nine from the Pitt 24, Pickett threw a pass to the left sideline that evaded the hands of freshman defensive back Trajan Bandy and landed in the arms of Quadree Henderson for a 19-yard gain and a first down.
 
With the Panthers running down the clock and driving down the field, Pickett put the exclamation point on the victory with a 22-yard rushing touchdown that gave Pitt a 24-7 lead with 2:54 remaining in the game. The freshman quarterback was impressive in his first career start, finishing the game completing 18-of-29 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown while adding 60 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
 
Trailing by 17, Rosier reentered the game at quarterback and engineered a two-play scoring drive that ended with a 39-yard touchdown to senior wideout Braxton Berrios that put Miami down 10 with 2:16 remaining in the game.
 
UM kicker Michael Badgley’s ensuing onside kick hit the hands of Pitt’s Jordan Whitehead and was recovered by Miami’s Malek Young on the UM 34 with 2:13 left on the clock. But the Canes’ momentum was short-lived, as Rosier was sacked and fumbled on third and three from the Miami 41 and Pitt recovered before kneeling out the remaining time.
 
Miami will face ACC Atlantic Division champion Clemson next Saturday in the 2017 ACC Championship Game. The Hurricanes and Tigers will kickoff at 8 p.m. in a game that will be broadcast on ABC.