The Pittsburgh Panther’s defense had been the tone-setter for the entire season. Getting after the quarterback and creating turnovers was the spark the Panthers needed in November when it seemed like the season was becoming derailed. A steadying presence through the chaos of the college football season.
The defense made their mark again to close out the regular season for the Panthers helping aid Pitt in a 42-16 win over the Miami Hurricanes in the final ACC Coastal game to be played. The Panthers came away with five sacks and were consistently getting pressure on the Miami quarterbacks and caused three turnovers to help keep the team undefeated in November.
The Panthers have faced plenty of adversity this season. From the injuries at quarterback to the start of the season to not living up to the expectations of the preseason, the Panthers continued to push forward. The offense was at the center of plenty of criticism throughout the season and it’s something they knew they had to keep pushing through.
“We always keep fighting and Kedon is a great example of that.” Jared Wayne stated, “It wasn’t the year we were hoping to have, but these things take time.”
Time is something these two can possibly have together. Wayne and Slovis both have the option to return next season if they choose to. Wayne himself had a big game with 199 yards and three touchdowns. The game today put the wide receiver over 1,000 yards on the season. Slovis has seen the drive that Wayne has had firsthand.
“Jared is a really hard worker. I think he was a really great player and he took himself to the next level.” Slovis stated, “It’s a heck of an accomplishment.”
Tyler Van Dyke made his Hurricane return after missing the last three games due to injury. After Miami drove down the field with relative ease, SirVocea Dennis came away with an interception on quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and returned it down into Miami territory. It didn’t take long for Pitt to capitalize on the Miami mistake. The Panthers ran a balanced mix of run and pass that even got Gavin Bartholomew involved. In the end, it was Israel Abanikanda again adding another touchdown run to his stellar season. It didn’t take long for Pitt to make another impact play on defense. With backup quarterback Jacurri Brown in the game with the injury to Tyler Van Dyke, Brown threw what was basically a punt interception to Javon McIntyre.
Pitt started to put together a good drive that got all the way to inside the 5. After Kedon Slovis missed an easy touchdown pass on second and goal from the 1, Israel Abanikanda was stopped twice at the goal line for a turnover on downs. The Hurricanes switched to Jake Garcia to come out on the next drive. After almost another special teams fumble that was recovered by the Panthers, points came quickly. Kedon Slovis hit Jared Wayne who weaved through defenders and broke multiple tackles en route to a 66-yard touchdown. Pitt’s defense continued to make plays to help the offense, forcing a fumble to set the Panthers up in Miami territory. Izzy did what Izzy does from there getting the Panthers a 21-0 lead.
The defense continued their suffocating play against the third string Jake Garcia putting pressure on him drop back after drop back. After trading punts, Miami was gifted an opportunity as Kedon Slovis was intercepted and the Hurricanes started on the Panther’s 35. The Panthers stood tall and forced a turnover on downs to keep the Hurricanes scoreless. Pitt didn’t take their foot off the gas after that turnover on the previous drive. Kedon Slovis and the offense put together a 7-play 89-yard drive that was capped off by a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jared Wayne to give the Panthers a 28-0 lead heading into the half.
The second half was all about chewing up the clock from the Panther’s perspective. After the Hurricanes got a field goal to end the shutout, the Panthers again responded on offense. Rodney Hammond aided most of the drives rushing attack to help chew up 5:39 and Kedon Slovis hit Jared Wayne for his third touchdown catch of the game to put the Panthers up 35-3.
Miami was able to respond with a scoring drive of its own. Aided by another questionable defensive pass interference on A.J. Woods, Jake Garcia was able to connect with Will Mallory for a four-yard touchdown pass. A missed two-point conversion left the score 35-9. The Panthers from there decided to live up to this game being during rivalry week and continued to put points on the board. Led by C’Bo Flemister, the Panthers capped off a 71-yard touchdown drive with a 26-yard rushing touchdown to push the lead to 42-9.
The Hurricanes were able to grab one more touchdown in garbage time and the game ended 42-16.
The Panthers wait to find out their bowl game fate after finishing 8-4 in the regular season.