DURHAM, N.C. -- As Pitt receiver Devin Street stood on the field in the fourth quarter Saturday against Duke, memories of previous fourth-quarter collapses flashed through his head -- at Iowa in 2011, at Notre Dame in 2012.
There were points Saturday when it looked as if this game might join that list, but Pitt held on in the fourth quarter for a wild, 58-55 victory against the Blue Devils.
The win wasn't sealed until just over two minutes to play, when Pitt faced a third-and-7 and needed a first-down conversion to seal a win in the highest-scoring game in Pitt history.
Quarterback Tom Savage took a snap and sent a pass on the sideline to receiver Kevin Weatherspoon, who had only tallied his first career reception earlier in the game. Weatherspoon dived and, barely dragging his foot inbounds, came down with the catch.
"I just told myself I had to catch it," Weatherspoon said. "I didn't want to come down here this far and lose. We just had to win."
Pitt's offense was prolific Saturday, and it turns out the Panthers needed every last bit of it.
Savage threw for a career-high 424 yards and six touchdowns, tying the Atlantic Coast Conference record for touchdown passes in a game. Most of those throws -- especially early -- went to the receiving duo of Street and freshman Tyler Boyd, which looks more talented every week.
Boyd finished with eight catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first Pitt receiver with three touchdown catches in a game since Larry Fitzgerald in 2002.
Street caught six passes for 166 yards and two scores. On back-to-back drives at the end of the first and early in the second quarter, each hauled in a touchdown pass of more than 60 yards.
"Defenses try and shadow Street, bracket him, until they see me or [Weatherspoon] or anybody else out there making big plays," Boyd said. "They have to get out of that and play regular defense. Once we get them to play regular defense, it's going to be hard to stop us, period."
Savage said Duke played aggressively in its coverage schemes, which the Panthers took advantage of on the long plays.
"The only thing that surprised me is the talent we have, the threat we have going deep, you'd think they'd drop back a little bit more," Savage said.
For his part, Savage said he felt more comfortable Saturday than he has all season. He didn't throw an interception for the first time this season and spread the ball around to eight receivers.
"You can't compare it to the New Mexico game or Florida State game," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. "Too many different things. But I think that, absolutely, I like the way he's approaching it, working it."
While the offense was clicking, Pitt's defense and special teams gave up enough big plays to let the Blue Devils stay in the game.
Receiver Jamison Crowder scored touchdowns rushing, receiving and on a punt return.
Duke quarterback Brandon Connette completed 21 of 32 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns, and added 97 yards and a score on the ground.
"We need to work on some stuff," defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. "We got a win, so we're going to be happy about the win, but I'm kind of disappointed as far as letting them score 55 points on us. I'm real disappointed in that part."
Connette also threw four interceptions that ended up costing the Blue Devils. The first two helped Pitt build a big lead early, and the second two cut short drives in the fourth quarter as Duke tried to come back.
"We needed some turnovers on defense, and the DBs and the corners and even the linebackers came up with some big plays," Donald said. "I was excited about that."
The Panthers took a 17-point lead with 8:30 to go when Anthony Gonzalez returned Pitt's fourth interception 37 yards for a touchdown. But Duke scored on the ensuing drive and, after a Pitt three-and-out that only elapsed 1:01, the Blue Devils found the end zone again to cut the lead to three.
On his post-game radio show, Chryst admitted that he might have started to try to run down the clock too early.
With the clock ticking down and holding a 58-55 lead, Pitt needed the third-down catch from Weatherspoon to keep the Blue Devils from coming back on the field with a chance to tie or take the lead.
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter @SWernerPG First Published September 21, 2013 8:15 PM