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Pitt ekes out 17-14 win over Delaware

Pitt is 17-1 all-time against FCS teams

NCAA Football: Delaware at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt hosted Delaware at Heinz Field on Saturday afternoon for its final non-conference game of the 2019 season, and the result was a 17-14 victory for Pitt. However, as the scoreline suggests, it was a closer affair than anyone expected, as Pitt was a 28-point favorite.

The game began with a surprise, as Nick Patti started under center in lieu of Kenny Pickett. The reason for the switch was never made clear, but the ACC Network broadcast crew surmised that Pickett was still recovering from Pitt’s 35-34 win over UCF last week. Pickett left that game briefly due to injury concerns.

Patti got off to a decent start, as his first pass of the game was a 46-yard bomb to Pitt receiver Taysir Mack. However, he failed to convert that big play into points. Fortunately for Patti and Pitt, Delaware suffered from its own offensive struggles in the first half and gave them the ball back, and that allowed Pitt to score on a 30-yard pass from Patti to V’Lique Carter to put Pitt up 7-0.

Delaware and Pitt exchanged miscues after the first score, as Delaware kicker Jake Roth failed to convert on a 36-yard field goal, and Delaware defensive back Tim Poindexter picked off a pass by Patti on the following drive. That led to a Delaware touchdown on a Nolan Henderson pass to Gene Coleman II, bringing the score to 7-7. However, Pitt kicker Alex Kessman then converted on a 21-yard field goal to give Pitt a 10-7 lead heading into halftime.

Pitt opened the second half in disappointing fashion, as Pitt receiver Maurice Ffrench was stripped by Delaware linebacker Drew Nickles, who recovered the ball. That led to Delaware’s second touchdown of the day, which came on a five-yard pass from Henderson to Delaware receiver Jourdan Townsend. The Blue Hens would ride that 14-10 lead into the fourth quarter, but they would not hold on for the win, as the Panthers rebounded.

About one minute into the fourth quarter, Pitt awakened and kicked into gear with two big runs by V’Lique Carter and Todd Sibley Jr. Patti then rediscovered the magic he had lost after the first quarter, as he connected with Mack on a 48-yard pass that put Pitt in the red zone. Three plays later, the duo linked up again for a game-winning 12-yard touchdown pass that put Pitt up 17-14 over Delaware.

The Blue Hens would not recover, giving Pitt its third win of the season and putting the two teams on equal footing record-wise at 3-2.

Next up for Pitt is a 3-1 Duke team that just buried Virginia Tech 45-10 on Friday night. Pitt is 5-1 against Duke since joining the ACC in 2013, and under Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi, the Panthers are 4-0 against the Blue Devils.