On the Panthers: Pitt's finishes can give you heartburn
October 10, 2016 12:00 AM
Pitt's Chris Blewitt kicks the winning field goal against Georgia Tech Saturday at Heinz Field.
By Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Linebacker Matt Galambos has an Italian grandmother in Philadelphia who may have said it best — this Pitt football team is giving her agita.
With the exception of an opening week win against Villanova that was pretty secure by halftime, the Panthers’ fate in every game this season has come down to a wild finish in the final minutes.
A 37-34 victory Saturday against Georgia Tech was just the latest fourth-quarter, edge-of-the-seat conclusion. Between a late touchdown by tight end Scott Orndoff on a deep ball, a critical defensive stop on fourth-and-1 with 1:47 left, and a 31-yard field goal by kicker Chris Blewitt as time expired, the Panthers certainly have been worth the cost of admission for drama lovers.
For good measure, Blewitt’s kick had to hit the right upright before tumbling over the crossbar.
“She’s an Italian from South Philly,” said Galambos, of his tense grandma. “She says we always give her agita — a little bit of anxiety. We definitely poured it out.”
Consider the results of the 2016 season so far.
Sept. 10: Pitt’s 42-39 win against Penn State was only secured when defensive back Ryan Lewis made an end zone interception on a jump ball with 1:15 left on the clock.
Sept. 17: The team’s 45-38 loss to Oklahoma State came down to a late touchdown after a lengthy lightning delay that broke a tie score and put the Cowboys ahead for good with 1:21 left.
Sept. 24: North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky converted four times on fourth down and still threw a dagger of a touchdown pass with 0:02 left to give the Tar Heels a one-point victory in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Oct. 2: A week ago against Marshall, it was a win via dramatic finish when quarterback Nate Peterman threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Jester Weah with 1:04 to play.
And the latest, Saturday: Blewitt’s field goal as time expires gets it done against Georgia Tech, but not after the defense comes up with a much-needed big stop with 1:47 to play.
Make no mistake, those late losses are nothing to brag about for the Panthers, nor is their inability to close out games they can win quicker.
But one can’t argue a single point: They’ve certainly made it interesting.
Pitt improved to 4-2, 1-1 in the ACC, and still has Coastal Division title aspirations on a weekend that saw North Carolina lose to Virginia Tech.
The Hokies are the only team 2-0 in the division, followed by Virginia (1-0), North Carolina (2-1), Miami (1-1) and Pitt (1-1).
The Panthers’ title dream can stay alive as long as they keep picking up divisional wins.
An exalted coach Pat Narduzzi strode to the podium Saturday after the win against Georgia Tech and first let out a “Wooh, doggy!” which in Narduzzi-speak roughly translates to something like: “holy cow!”
“These players are unbelievable and have great character,” Narduzzi said. “You can look at the ups and downs in that game, when the tables [turned] and our kids just didn’t stop believing. The coaches didn’t stop believing. We just continued to pound. We talked a lot about ‘Pittsburgh tough’ and to play with emotion for four quarters and I think we did that. You couldn’t have a better finish to a ballgame.”
Orndoff said he knew the game was Pitt’s after the defensive stop.
“I think we don’t give up,” Orndoff said. “We believe in each other until the end of the game, offense and defense. One steps up for the other when we need them.”
Said running back Qadree Ollison, who was on the field for the winning field goal: “I didn’t even see it hit the crossbar…I heard the roar of the crowd and thought, ‘Those are our fans, so something good must’ve happened.’”
Something always happens late, when it comes to Pitt football.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.
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