Pittsburgh hadn’t erased a fourth-quarter deficit to win a game since 2009, but coach Pat Narduzzi used some trickery to end a slide that was the longest of any FBS team in the country as the Panthers edged Syracuse 23-20.
On a fourth-down play in a tie game with less than 5 minutes to play at midfield, Narduzzi called for the fake punt -- a play Syracuse had run perfectly in its three previous games -- and punter Ryan Winslow tossed a completion to linebacker Matt Galambos for the first down. Pitt finished off the drive with a Chris Blewitt field goal as time expired to move to 6-1 on the season, with a Thursday showdown with North Carolina for control of the Costal Division looming.
What the win means for Pitt: It’s hard to put Pitt’s fourth-quarter doom into perspective, but it was crystalized earlier this year when Iowa booted a 57-yard field goal as time expired to pull out a win. But Narduzzi’s confidence in his special teams to execute the fake ended a streak of 32 straight losses for the team when it trailed at any point in the fourth quarter, and Pitt couldn’t have picked a better time to end the streak. The win keeps Pitt ranked, keeps the Panthers in competition for the Coastal Division, and sets up would could be a huge game on Thursday against the Tar Heels. And while it’ll be overlooked a bit given the larger goals, Pitt also officially became bowl eligible with the win.
What the loss means for Syracuse: It’s another frustrating defeat for a team that has played far better than its 3-4 record might indicate. Syracuse has had a fourth-quarter lead in each of its last two games, but both ended in defeat. QB Eric Dungey continues to impress, and the defense has continued to perform well, but the losses are mounting and bowl eligibility looks like it’ll be tough with a difficult schedule remaining.
Player of the game: Galambos did a little of everything in Pitt’s win. The linebacker, who caught the first-down pass on the fake punt, also keyed the defense, with five tackles, including three for loss, and an interception. Pitt’s improvement on the defensive front has keyed the team’s turnaround in 2015, and Galambos’ contributions have been front and center.
Stat of the game: If Galambos was the do-it-all defender for Pitt, Tyler Boyd handled that role on offense. Boyd threw a 38-yard completion, ran six times for 34 yards and added 93 more yards receiving on 12 catches. Boyd’s 165 yards accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Panthers’ yards, and he became the first player to record 20 yards passing, rushing and receiving in consecutive games since UTEP’s Lorne Sam in 2007.