Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett took some time to get his feet under him in the Quick Lane Bowl at Detroit’s Ford Field on Thursday night, but once he did, he proved to be a dangerous weapon for the Panthers and the key difference-maker in the game. As a result, he was named the MVP of the Quick Lane Bowl.
Pickett got off to a rough start on Thursday, as the Pitt offense sputtered early and a fumble by Pickett led to an Eastern Michigan touchdown. That gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead that the Panthers would struggle to surmount. However, as Pickett’s play improved, so did Pitt’s offense and the team’s fortunes.
The first sign of life for Pitt came early in the second quarter, when the Panthers were backed up to their own 4-yard line after a well-placed boot by Eastern Michigan punter Jake Julien. From there, Pickett dropped back onto the Pitt logo in his own end zone and heaved a pass into the waiting hands of Maurice Ffrench at midfield. Ffrench would then outrun two Eastern Michigan defenders and take it to the house to tie the game at 10. The 96-yard play would go down as the longest pass play in Pitt program history.
That play awakened the Pitt offense, which would go on to put 24 more points on the board, including seven in the last minute to secure the win for Pitt. That score came on a 25-yard pass from Pickett to Taysir Mack, who hauled in the ball with one hand despite clear pass interference by Eastern Michigan defensive back Vince Calhoun, and it capped off a drive in which Pickett also absorbed a hit on third down but still found Shocky Jacques-Louis for a 23-yard gain and a first down.
Thanks in large part to Pickett, Pitt went on to defeat Eastern Michigan 34-30 and earn its first bowl victory since 2013 as well as the first bowl win of the Pat Narduzzi era. And with the Quick Lane Bowl in the books, Pickett has secured his best season to date, with 3,098 yards and a completion rate of 61.6 percent. Pickett also finished with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 13-9.