Pitt’s football team faced a tall order against a motivated Clemson team on Saturday. In the end, the Panthers were dominated in an ugly 52-17 loss.
Things got off to a rough start for the Panthers. Pitt (5-5) did not score on its first seven drives and three of those ended with interceptions by Kenny Pickett. The Panthers trailed Clemson (8-1) 31-0 at the end of the first quarter and the rout seemed to be on. Pickett added a fourth pick later and certainly had one of the worst games of his career.
Pitt did ultimately fight back a bit with ten second quarter points. Seven more points in the third quarter would cut the 38-3 lead to 38-17. But that was as close as the Panthers would ultimately get. Clemson pulled away and by the end, it became about Clemson trying to get a fifth year senior running back a garbage time touchdown in the game’s final seconds.
Hard to be too disappointed in this game. No, the Panthers didn’t win and no, it wasn’t close. But it wasn’t expected to be. To most, if the game was even reasonably close, that would be considered somewhat of a win. Pitt failed miserably in that aspect as the game became a laugher but the result can hardly be unexpected. Competing in this one was sort of going to be a best case scenario. And with that disastrous start, that went out the window fairly quickly.
I don’t have much to say about this game, honestly. Clemson’s a dominant team and breaking this thing down frame by frame seems kind of pointless. Their big players showed up on offense. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for 403 yards and 93 of those went to Amari Rodgers, who had ten catches. Rodgers was not even the most impressive receiver as Cornell Powell added six catches for 176 yards. Star running back Travis Etienne only had 58 yards on the ground but he only had 11 carries and still scored two touchdowns.
The Clemson defense, though, was just as impressive. They shut Pitt out in both the first and last quarters, and gave up only seven second half points. Pickett was harassed into four interceptions and the Panthers had only 26 rushing yards. Much of that, though, is because the early deficit forced them to abandon the run fairly early. A.J. Davis and Vincent Davis, the two main backs, had only a combined nine carries. Aside from a remarkable touchdown grab by Jordan Addison to secure a deflected ball and manage to get two feet inbounds, there was really little on offense to get excited about.
One play that I can’t stop thinking about needs to be mentioned — only because it sort of fits into the overall theme of the game. Clemson has playmakers that made plays. Pitt has playmakers that didn’t.
Now, look, I’m not going to be too harsh on these guys. Like most of Clemson’s opponents, they were overmatched. But many guys simply didn’t show up. Busted coverages, dropped passes, missed tackles, turnovers — all sorts of ugly was on display today.
One play really stands out to me. A ball was thrown to Damar Hamlin that hit him in the hands. It should have been intercepted and instead Hamlin dropped it. He’s dropped a few others this year, too. Clemson’s guys made interceptions. Four of them, actually. And while that Hamlin play didn’t alter the course of the game at all, it was a reminder to me of how teams like Pitt need to capitalize on plays like against teams like Clemson.
Talent differences can be made up by making big plays and the Panthers didn’t make them. Not only didn’t they make them, they didn’t prevent Clemson from making them. And that leads to the sort of lopsided scores like this one.
I got nothing more here, folks. There’s just not too much here to breakdown. Some will point to Pickett and his NFL prospects but all of the picks were not his fault and every quarterback is entitled to a rough game now and again. I’ve got a hard time believing Pickett’s stock plummets after a game like this. And overall, this is just one of those games you sort of ball up and throw into a proverbial trash can.
Pitt now has a week off and then will face Georgia Tech on December 10 in the finale.