Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett made the most of his Heisman Trophy showcase, throwing for 302 yards and two touchdowns as the 23rd-ranked Panthers topped Clemson 27-17.
Pickett completed 25 of 39 passes to overtake Alex Van Pelt for the most career completions in school history. The fifth-year senior ran for two drive-extending dives late in the fourth quarter after the Tigers had drawn within 10.
After defenses dominated the early stages, Pickett led two straight touchdown drives late in the second quarter to put the Panthers ahead.
Both of his TD passes came on crucial downs. He found Jordan Addison for a 23-yard score on a 3rd-and-7 with a beautiful pass to the back corner of the end zone. Pickett’s 39-yard touchdown to a wide open Taysir Mack was more straightforward, but still occured on a 4th-and-5 situation.
Linebacker SirVocea Dennis then returned an ill-advised shovel pass by Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei 50 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter that gave the Panthers a 14-point lead they never really threatened to give away.
Pitt (6-1, 3-0 ACC) gained firm control of the ACC’s Coastal Division by winning its fourth straight following a stunning home upset loss to Western Michigan last month. Clemson (4-3, 3-2) saw its chances for another Atlantic Division title take a massive hit thanks in large part to an offense that remains very much a problem with Halloween looming.
Uiagalelei passed for just 128 yards and two picks and was briefly benched in favor of backup Taisun Phommachanh in the third quarter after his baffling shovel pass hit Dennis right in the middle of the No. 7 on the front of his jersey.
Phommachanh failed to provide much of a spark, completing just 3 of 7 passes for 23 yards before Uiagalelei returned in the fourth quarter after Sam Scarton’s 43-yard field goal gave the Panthers a 27-10 lead with 9:30 remaining.
Uiagalelei did run for a 6-yard score with 7:56 remaining, but Pickett twice used his legs to turn convert on third downs as the Panthers ran out the clock while a giddy Heinz Field crowd celebrated.
Clemson suffered its worst ACC loss since a 28-6 defeat at Georgia Tech in 2014.