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Pitt crushes Duke at Heinz Field, 56-14

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

So, when's the last time we didn't have to sweat out a Pitt game?

The Panthers made sure that fans could rest comfortably, getting out to an early lead against Duke and never looking back on the way to a dominant 56-14 win.

Duke did trade scores with the Panthers early on but simply couldn't keep up with the Pitt offense. A pick six off of Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman made it 21-14 in favor of the Panthers, but that was as close as Duke would get again since they didn't score any more points the rest of the way.

The difference in today's game? Well, anytime you score that many points, you have to say the offense played well. But that's been the case all year and the reason the team didn't have to sweat it out today was that the defense did a tremendous job.

Now, Duke's passing game wasn't completely shut out since they threw for nearly 250 yards. But the Panthers' secondary played extraordinarily well compared to what they have done all year. Duke scored 14 points, but keep in mind that seven of those came on a pick six from Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman. The Blue Devils' offense scored only seven points and were held in check virtually the whole game.

Part of what Pitt did was get more pressure on the quarterback. Defensive end Ejuan Price had gone a few games without a sack but had two today. Several others got in on the act as well and that made it much easier for the secondary.

What I liked to see was that Pitt refused to have a letdown after the big win against Clemson last weekend. It would have been incredibly easy to take this game lightly and that clearly wasn't the case. Pitt played hard for the whole game and it was evident that they weren't fooling around.

That's also one thing that fans should love about what Pat Narduzzi has done here. He's not only got some very big wins now having defeated Penn State and Clemson, but he's not had a single letdown against a team they should beat. Sure, the Panthers have been outmatched a couple of times (see Navy last year) but for the most part, they have beaten the teams they should have and gotten a few upsets along the way. It's nice to have the days of losing the teams like Youngstown State and Akron behind us. Not that the team can't be upset, of course, but Narduzzi has not let that happen so far.

Too many heroes to mention, obviously. James Conner went for 101 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, despite sitting out quite a bit while Darrin Hall and, later, Qadree Ollison got some playing time. Quadree Henderson had yet another special teams touchdown, returning a punt for a score, and ran for 73 yards, caught two passes, and added a rushing touchdown. On defense, Ejuan Price had two sacks. Nathan Peterman did have the ugly pick six, but also threw for three touchdowns. Jester Weah had 95 yards on only two catches and while one went for a touchdown, the second came within only a few feet of counting as a touchdown as well. Lots of guys had big days.

Pitt wraps up next week with Syracuse. Winning an eighth game before the bowl would be big and it's very hard to complain about an 8-4 regular season with the Panthers' schedule.

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