PITTSBURGH, PA – In what is being called “The Pitt Special” the un-ranked Pitt Panthers snapped the 27-game non-bowl regular season win streak of UCF in a dramatic 35-34 upset win at Heinz Field.
Less than a minute to play and on a fourth-and-two at the Knights three, Panthers running back A.J. Davis took a direct snap from center, ran to his left and flipped the ball to Aaron Matthews, who then pulled up and found QB Kenny Pickett in the end zone for the Pitt victory.
There are tough ways to loss a game on the road, and this one will sting to the core for the Knights.
One week after routing one Power Five program in front of a national audience, the 15th-ranked UCF Knights traveled north to Heinz Field hope to earn another win over a Power Five opponent in Pitt, and continue to drive the conversation of the Knights being a College Football Playoff contender.
With a raucous and vocal crowd chanting “Overrated” and legends such as former offensive guard and three-time Super Bowl champion, Mark May on hand, the unranked Panthers came out on fire and playing with a chip on their shoulder Saturday afternoon.
Hoping to exact payback for a 45-14 throttling at the hands of the visiting Knights last year down in Orlando, the Panthers relentless pass rush flustered and frustrated QB Dillon Gabriel early and throughout in the game to the tune of six sacks. Thanks to the energy from the crowd and UCF being unable to get on track early, Pitt built up a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, causing the Knights to look shell-shocked, flat and out of sync.
Perhaps one could call it a letdown after beating Stanford 45-28 in what could be defined as a “statement win” for the still fledgling program, but UCF didn’t look like their usual self early in the game. And it showed.
After starting off slow, the Knights scored 31 points between the second and third quarters to take a 10-point lead at 31-21, but were unable to effectively close the game late thanks to some costly penalties late that helped ultimately set up Pitt’s game-winning play, sending Heinz Field into a frenzy, that could have been mistaken for a Sunday night Pittsburgh Steelers game.
With the loss, the Knights now look to lose the inside track on being the Group of Five representative in a New Year’s Six Bowl. If there is one bright spot is the blossoming play of Gabriel, who despite tossing his first two interceptions of the season, threw for 338 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
For the game, Pickett—who caught the game-winning TD—went 25-of-47 for 224 yards and one touchdown and rushed for another 61 on 12 carries.