STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State and Pitt met for 100th and perhaps final game of their intrastate rivalry at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, and the result was a disappointing 17-10 loss for the Panthers.
Pitt entered Saturday’s game against Penn State as 17-point underdogs but didn’t play as such.
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett threw for a career-high 372 yards in the game and completed 68.6 percent of his passes while keeping the Nittany Lions ‘defense on its heels with his pinpoint accuracy. Clifford completed fewer than 50% of his passes for only 222 yards.
Saturday’s game marked the second in a row that Pickett set a new personal best, throwing for 321 yards and a touchdown while completing 70.3 percent of his passes against Ohio last week.
Pitt’s defense was rock solid all game long, and the offense did enough on one long drive in the second quarter to go into the break tied at 10. Even in the second half, the Nittany Lions were only able to get in the endzone one more time.
Coach Narduzzi’s late-game decision to kick a field goal instead of going for a touchdown on 4th and 1 drew plenty of whimsical looks from Pitt fans.
It was a decision that could of changed the complexity of the game for the Panthers.
In the first quarter, the Panthers had a 4th and 7 at Penn State’s 37-yard line-a 55-yard field goal. Alex Kessman had made multiple field goals over 50 yards in his career, including a 55-yard field goal last year at the windy Heinz Field.
PSU kicker Jordan Stout smashed a 57-yarder into the same end zone later in the half.
Narduzzi first called a timeout then chose to play it safe and punted. Kirk Christodoulou’s punt was downed by Tre Tipton at the 2, which kept PSU bottled up for the series.
PSU Journey Brown raced 85 yards on third down and three plays later, Devyn Ford scored Penn State’s first touchdown. Even on that drive the Nittany Lions offense were lethargic in the half.
On the first drive of the fourth quarter, with the Pitt trailing 17-10, the Panthers had the ball at Penn State’s 48-yard-line and had a 4th and 2. Again, they elected to punt the ball away and leave it to their defense.
Pitt had an earlier fourth down, a 4th and 1 on their own 43 with 7:38 to play in the game. Narduzzi sent the punt team out before burning another time out and then decided to go for it, with Kenny Pickett hitting Nakia Griffin-Stewart for a big gain.
Narduzzi played things conservatively against PSU giving them too much respect at times. In more than one occasion, he wasted a timeout attempting to plan.
Narduzzi ‘s passive decision-making and lack of aggression cost them the game point blank.
The best drive for the Panthers was in the second quarter where they just came away with only 3 points. But it was 18 plays over 85 yards that took 9:20 ticks off the clock. Pickett was a super hero, completing 12 of 13 and scrambling three times to move the chains.
“I think we showed all game what we’re capable of,” Pickett said. “That was a really good drive. We kept our defense off the field and let them rest up.”