Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi may want to add a photo of place-kicker Chris Blewitt to the schools’ special teams meeting room after his 25-yard field goal as time expired lifted Panthers to a 23-20 win over Syracuse Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
One of Narduzzi’s first moves this year upon taking over the Panthers’ up-and-down-and-middle of the road program the past couple of generations was to reconnect with the school’s proud history.
Old-timers know about Mike Ditka in the early 1960s and 1976 Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett leading Pitt to a national title. But he also wanted players he inherited for his first season in 2015 and ones he has been recruiting for the future to know about more recent players such as New York Jets cornerback Darrele Revis.
That’s why players will find a large photo of Revis from his Pitt career in the defensive backs meeting room. And photos of other Pitt stars such as Ditka and Dorsett in other position rooms.
Blueitt, despite his surname, also was the Panthers’ hero just a week ago. He booted a career-long 56-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to lift the Panthers past Georgia Tech on the road, 31-28.
The Panthers, who broke into the rankings last week at No. 25, added to their resume of toughness – a Narduzzi trademark in his successful stint at Michigan State’s defensive coordinator under Mark Dantonio — with their fifth win by single digits.
Pitt, which has played five of its seven games on the road, had to come from behind to improve to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the ACC Coastal. Entering the weekend, the Panthers, No. 23 Duke (5-1, 2-0 Coastal) and North Carolina (5-1, 2-0 Coastal) were the only remaining unbeaten Coastal teams in a wide open division race.
Narduzzi, who was added to the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year watch list last week, has lifted Pitt to a 6-1 record for the first time since 2009. The 4-0 conference record also is a high point since joining the ACC in 2013 and since 2009 while residing in the Big East.
The Panthers scored first with a 33-yard field goal by Blewitt just five minutes into the first quarter, but Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC Atlantic) took leads of 7-3, 10-3 and 17-10 before the Panthers closed the first half trailing 17-13 on Blewitt’s 30-yard field goal with one second remaining in the half.
Pittsburgh took a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter when Qadree Ollison scored on a 1-yard run. His scored finished a 14-play, 70-yard drive. Syracuse managed to tie the game with 9:20 to play on a Cole Murphy’s 37-yard field goal.
Blewitt’s game-winning field goal finished a 19-play, 89-yard drive.
Pitt has been riding a strong defense this year, but the Panthers found a way to win despite yielding 136 yards rushing and 217 passing for 363 total yards. Pitt entered the game ranked 17th in the nation while allowing only 300.8 yards.
Ollison carried 22 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Nathan Peterman was 19 of 25 for 189 yards with no TDs but also no interceptions. Tyler Boyd caught 12 balls for 93 yards.