True freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett accounted for three touchdowns in his first career start as Pitt upset No. 2-ranked Miami 24-14 at Heinz Field on Friday.
Pickett, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound native of Oakhurst, N.J., had thrown only 37 career passes entering the game against a Hurricanes defense ranked No. 3 in the country with 27 turnovers forced on the season. He was efficient in completing 18 of 29 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown, and routinely used his big body to gain key extra yards in rushing 13 times for 60 yards and two more scores.
With Pitt (5-7) leading 17-7 and facing a 4th-and-5 at Miami’s 22-yard line with 2:54 remaining in the game, the Panthers put the ball in Pickett’s hands with a naked bootleg. He responded with a touchdown run to all put put the game out of reach.
“We call it a sucker play,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said of the touchdown run. “He made a heck of a play. … six points, huge play.”
Miami quarterback Malik Rosier thew a 39-yard touchdown pass to Braxton Berrios with 2:16 remaining to close the gap to 24-14. The Hurricanes (10-1) then recovered the onsides kick to keep their slim hopes, but Rosier was strip-sacked and Pitt fell on the ball to end Miami’s final hope.
It also ended a very difficult day for Rosier. The Hurricanes brought out the “turnover chain” twice following first-half turnovers, but Pitt held Miami running backs to 16 yards on 10 carries and Rosier was unable to capitalize on open receivers throughout the game. Pitt led 10-7 at halftime following a touchdown pass by Pickett.
Miami received the second-half kickoff, but was unable to move the ball with any consistency. After missing several open receivers deep downfield, Rosier was benched for a series in the fourth quarter by coach Mark Richt. Evan Shirreffs, who had attempted five passes all season, threw a pair of incompletions and was sacked on third down in his lone series of the game.
Rosier finished 15-of-34 passing for 187 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The senior was also held to 31 yards on 12 carries – including a long of 15 yards.
Pitt did not qualify for a bowl game, but 13 seniors closed their careers with an upset that will have major implications on the College Football Playoff picture.
“We’ve been close all year, we’ve got an incredible football team over there,” Narduzzi said, pointing at his sideline. “We’ve left some on the table … it’s a game of inches, and our guys left everything on the table.”
UP NEXT: Miami will play against Clemson in next week’s ACC Championship Game. Pitt’s season has concluded.