For the first time since 2009, Pitt defeated North Carolina on the gridiron, as the Panthers hosted the Tar Heels at Heinz Field for a primetime matchup on Thursday night and dealt them a 34-27 overtime loss.
The fear heading into the game was that North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell would carve up the Pitt secondary, and those fears were exacerbated when Pitt safety Damar Hamlin was ejected from the game in the second quarter for targeting. However, it was Pitt signal-caller Kenny Pickett who teed off on the North Carolina defensive backs, as he threw for a total of 359 yards and one touchdown.
In addition, Pickett maintained an impressive degree of accuracy despite multiple drops from his receivers, as he completed 25 of his 41 passes for a 61 percent completion rate on the night. The Oakhurst, New Jersey, native was also dangerous on the ground, as he ran for 53 yards and two more touchdowns, bringing his yards-from-scrimmage total up to 412 and his touchdown tally up to three.
”Kenny was outstanding,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said after the game. “He was on target. I don’t think he had a bad pass. Obviously, we had some drops in the first half, which was going to happen. Jared Wayne had a couple nice catches for a young guy getting in there. He made some nice catches, could have maybe had a touchdown over the middle. Shocky [Jacques-Louis] was outstanding. But Kenny Pickett was on fire all day long.”
Pickett has been hot and cold this season, as he entered the matchup with the Tar Heels coming off two straight games in which he threw two picks and failed to amass 205 passing yards. However, he also threw for more than 300 yards against Ohio and Penn State, setting a personal best with 372 passing yards against the Nittany Lions on Sept. 14.
With that said, the Pitt quarterback’s performance on Thursday was among the best of his career, and it helped snap a six-game losing streak against North Carolina that dated back to Pitt’s entry into the ACC in 2013. The win also improved Pitt’s record to 7-3, keeping the team in contention for a second straight ACC Coastal title. Pickett and the Panthers will look to maintain their momentum through the final two weeks of the regular season.