DURHAM – Starting its backup quarterback and trying to get off a two-game slide, Duke entered Saturday’s game versus Pittsburgh with a lot to prove.
The Panthers, however, remained in second place in the Coastal Division with a 31-13 win over the battered Blue Devils, who dropped to 6-4 overall and 3-3 in ACC play.
The Panthers (7-3, 5-1) used a trio of long, back breaking drives to pull away from Duke. Each Pittsburgh scoring drive went more than 70 yards, showing the Blue Devils inability to get off the field on third down.
The Panthers first score game on their opening drive. Pitt went 92 yards on 14 plays – nine rushing – and capped it off with a 13-yard pass from Nate Peterman to Zach Challingsworth. The Panthers were 3-3 on third down on that first drive, including the scoring play, which came on third and seven.
After Duke tied the game at seven on a 1-yard run from Parker Boehme, Pitt struck paydirt twice in the third quarter.
Tied at 10 at the break after the two teams trading field goals, the Panthers went 81 yards in 10 plays on its opening possession of the third quarter, capped off when Peterman hooked up with tightend J.P. Holtz – again on third down – for a 3-yard score. They followed that with a 9-play, 74 scoring drive, ending on a 5-yard strike from Peterman to Dontez Ford, his third TD pass of the day.
Still fighting for their lives, Duke answered with a 51-yard field goal from Ross Martin, but Pitt stuck to its bread and butter – long drives, lots of runs – and scored again, this time a 1-yard run from Qadree Ollison.
Game changer: Pitt made a statement on its opening drive. The Panthers drove 92 yards in 13 plays, converting all three on its third downs, including the final play, a 13-yard touchdown pass from Nate Peterman to Zach Challingsworth. Pitt also ran the ball nine times on the drive. (IF PITT WINS)
Stick with it: Don’t know what Duke will take away from this one, other than the fact that Boehme proved to be a solid backup moving forward. Not sure when Sirk will return, but Duke wouldn’t be judged if Boehme and Sirk split time moving forward.
Numbers don’t lie:
8/15- Pitt was 8-15 on third down conversion. Each of the Panthers drive had a crucial moment when the Devils had a chance to get off the field, but couldn’t stop Pitt on third down.
270 – Number of yards on the ground giving up by the Blue Devils.
8 – Number of carries by Tyler Boyd, Pitts All-ACC receiver. The Panthers wanted to get the ball in his hands any way possible, including carries.
Nate Peterman, Pitt – Quarterback finished 12-23 with 180 yards and three scores.
Qadree Ollison, Pitt – Had 26 carries for 111 yards and one score. Averaged 4.3 yards per carry.
Parker Boehme, Duke – Filling in for starter Thomas Sirk, Boehme was impressive, leading Duke through the air (23-42, 248) and on the ground (80).
What’s next?: The Blue Devils will travel to Charlottesville, Va. for a showdown with Virginia. Duke can still win nine games if you include whichever bowl they get invited to, but they have to take it one game at a time, beginning with this winnable matchup versus the Cavaliers.