An Experience I’ll Never Forget; Pitt Beats Clemson

What can I say here that hasn’t already been said?

Pitt beating Clemson was one for the ages. I can’t explain how fortunate I feel to have been able to travel down to South Carolina for the game. This one, along with 13-9, are memories I’ll have for my entire life. To be at both is something I don’t feel many people can claim.

But honestly, this whole week kind of felt like the 13-9 week. Nobody was giving Pitt a chance against Clemson. The Panthers had to go on the road to No. 2 late in the season as a 20-plus-point underdog. All signs pointed toward the Tigers getting a win and continuing their push toward the College Football Playoff.

Pitt was having none of that.

General Thoughts

First off, this road trip was fantastic. From the night before seeing Pitt fans all over town in places like Tiger Town Tavern, to the tailgate and having an amazing crew down there for the game, to the pregame festivities and the game itself, this trip lived up to the marquee billing.

Rather than try and write out words to describe it, here are some photos that will paint a better picture than I can (click each photo for a full-size version).

Pitt-Clemson Tailgate Death Valley Tiger Marching Band Part of the Crew Part of the Crew The Tailgate Scene Pregame

Crooked Goal Posts
Ironically, the field goal posts Blewitt missed a PAT on and then nailed the game winner were crooked all game.

Tiger Stadium The Aftermath

Offense

This offensive performance by Pitt is one of the most impressive I’ve seen in my lifetime. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada continues to add new wrinkles to the game plan each week, and this time around we saw more pre-snap motion than ever before (which is saying something), and the passing attack became lethal.

It’s amazing that teams are now taking Quadree Henderson and the jet sweep away, but this Pitt offense keeps on rolling.

Nate Peterman produced the best game of his career in the biggest game of his career, and he deserves all the credit in the world. So many people call this kid a “game manager.” I’ve heard other podcasts describe him as having a ceiling of potential that is far lower than most quarterbacks.

He shoved all of that back in everyone’s faces with what he did on Saturday afternoon.

Peterman’s targets deserve a ton of credit, too. Scott Orndoff turned in probably the best game of his career, and Jester Weah made noise as well (that one-handed catch should live on in Pitt lore forever). George Aston, Jaymar Parrish, and James Conner were also heavily involved out of the backfield, making big catches and the right reads after the catch.

Conner was a man amongst boys carrying the ball as well. His 132 yards were impressive enough, but running over defenders in the process and stiff arming his way to the endzone was the cherry on top.

And none of this is possible without the offensive line rebounding in a big way after its worst performance of the season in Miami a week prior.

Defense

More of the same, but the defense made big plays when it mattered most. Three interceptions of Deshaun Watson were the difference makers in this game, along with consecutive stops on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 to get the Pitt offense the ball back with enough time to drive down the field for the game-winning field goal by Chris Blewitt.

Whatever your opinion is of this defense this year, they have made some big stops to give the offense a chance to win games. Look at all of those first half field goals for Virginia Tech. Reference the 4th down stop against Georgia Tech. And now add the consecutive stops against Clemson to the resume.

The defense gives up a TON of passing yards. It’s not OK by any means, and it certainly needs to improve. But they made big plays when it counted on Saturday, and for that they deserve a ton of credit.

Saleem Brightwell and Ryan Lewis picked off balls to halt Clemson drives deep in Pitt territory. Avonte Maddox added another.

Like it or not, that’s the formula Pat Narduzzi is looking for. Stop the run + force errors in the passing game = win. It’s exactly what Narduzzi did against Baylor in his last game as a coordinator at Michigan State.

Does the secondary need to improve? Of course. But for this day, we should be giving them as much good press as possible. They deserve it.

Special Teams

Chris Blewitt.

There’s not much else to say.

His ability to come back and hit that game winner after a missed PAT and blocked field goal earlier in the game is very impressive. I’m wondering if any kicker in Pitt history has as many game winners with just seconds remaining.

Blewitt is going to go down in history as one of the best and most memorable kickers we’ve ever had.

Conclusion

Hail to Pitt.

We all wanted one win in the last three games — Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson. Pitt didn’t win the game you thought they’d win, but they still got one. And the Clemson win is the most impactful of the three because of the perception is has across the country.

I consider the Penn State win to be a signature win. Many were still looking for one from Pat Narduzzi.

Well, everyone should be happy now.

Two games left against Duke and Syracuse. Then a bowl game.

Pitt has a very good shot at eight wins now. Maybe a ninth in the bowl game.

College football is a crazy, beautiful thing.

Let’s enjoy these last few weeks.

Chris

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