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GAME RECAP: Panthers collapse again, lose 42-24 to UNC

a 4th quarter meltdown dooms the Panthers to their second straight loss

Pittsburgh v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

It all started so well.

The Pittsburgh Panthers fell to the North Carolina Tar Heels 42 to 24 to drop to 4-4 on the season. It feels like it’s going to be a long rest of the season, but let’s recap what went right, and what went wrong for the Panthers.

First half

The Pittsburgh Panthers started the game on offense and many were eager to see what the Panthers were going to do. Pitt quickly came out aggressive opting to try moving the ball through the air. The Panthers marched down the field on an 8-play drive highlighted by a 40-yard pass to Bub Means bringing them down to the Carolina 31. From there running back Israel Abanikanda did what he does best and took the team into the end zone capping the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.

After exchanging 3 and outs North Carolina was able to respond. A 10-play drive that required UNC to convert on a 4th and 1 was capped off by an impressive one-handed catch by Antoine Green to tie the game up at 7. The defensive front seven closed out the first quarter with another sack on Drake Maye to keep the game 7-7.

The second quarter got off to a bang for the Panthers. Kedon Slovis hit Jared Wayne for a deep 41-yard pass to get all the way down to the Carolina 4. From there Abanikanda punched it in for his second touchdown to give Pitt the 14-7 lead.

Following a Carolina punt, Pitt looked to really start building momentum in this game. Unfortunately for the Panthers, an uncalled pass interference followed by a false start made the Panthers settle for the field goal. Still, a 17-7 lead had all the momentum going the Panthers’ way.

North Carolina would follow up with an answer. A big 50-yard play from Maye to Antione Green put the Tar Heels in scoring territory. From there Kobe Paysour punched in a one-yard touchdown run to inch closer 17-14.

The Panthers and the Tar Heels traded punts for the rest of the half. A targeting call on Calijah Kancey was a tough one for the Panthers. Momentum slowly started to feel like it was swinging for Carolina.

Second half

After a UNC punt to start the half, the Panthers came out firing on offense again. Kedon Slovis again connected to Jared Wayne for a massive 50-yard gain and set up a 22-yard touchdown run from Abanikanda to give the Panthers a 24-14 lead.

The Tar Heels were able to answer right back with their own 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 13-yard touchdown catch from Josh Downs to pull the game back within three.

The Panthers were forced to punt and the Tar Heels from there really were feeling it. Drake Maye put together yet another scoring drive on the ground and through the air going all the way into the 4th quarter finished off by an Elijah Green run. The Tar Heels took their first lead of the game with 14:07 left in the fourth 28-24.

With all the energy and momentum going the Tar Heels’ way Pittsburgh needed to respond. Unfortunately for the Panthers, things got much worse. Israel Abanikanda fumbled after establishing the tone of the drive and North Carolina recovered in Pitt territory. It only took 45 seconds for Maye to lead another touchdown drive to Downs to give the Tar Heels a 35-24 lead.

With Pitt in desperation mode, Slovis threw three incomplete passes for a quick three and out. Drake Maye at that point continued to pick apart the Panthers’ defense for another quick touchdown that only took a little over a minute off the clock. With nine minutes left to go in the game and down 18, the game was pretty much over at that point. Pitt turned the ball over on downs and UNC was able to run out the clock and send the Panthers home with their second consecutive loss.


Kedon Slovis ended the game 14 of 31 with 236 yards and no touchdowns. Slovis did not throw an interception this week coming off a two-interception game the week before.

Israel Abanikanda carried the ball 26 times for 127 yards and three touchdowns. Abanikanda now has over 1,000 yards on the season.

Jared Wayne has a big game today for the Panthers. Wayne finished with 161 yards and averaged 23 yards a catch.

Drake Maye carved the Panthers after the Panthers’ front seven stopped getting home. Maye finished 34 of 44 for 388 yards and 5 touchdown passes. Maye also led the team with 61 rushing yards.

Two Tar Heels ended up over 100 yards. Antoine Green finished with 10 catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Josh Downs had 11 catches for 102 yards and also added two touchdowns.


Abanikandas’ first touchdown

Abanikanda’s third touchdown run

Up next

The Panthers will head back home after this two-game road trip to welcome the Syracuse Orange. The Orange are also coming off back-to-back losses falling to Clemson and Norte Dame. There has to be some serious self-reflection now as the team sits at 4-4.