PITTSBURGH (CBSMiami) – In a flat performance on the road, the Miami Hurricanes fell to the Pittsburgh Panthers 24 to 14 at Heinz Field.
Miami, now 10-1, is undefeated no more, and their FBS-best 15 game winning streak has come to an end.
And their College Football Playoff chances are in jeopardy, after suffering a tough loss to a team that entered the game 4-7, with no hope of bowl eligibility. Miami currently sits Number 2 in the CFP rankings, but is almost certain to drop out of the top 4, when the rankings are updated on Tuesday.
The Hurricanes can still win the ACC when they face Clemson in the conference title game on December 2nd, and a victory in Charlotte will give them a shot to return to the top 4.
In the meantime, the Canes will search for answers after their worst performance of the year.
A tale of two quarterbacks
On this day, Miami’s veteran was outplayed by a Pitt rookie. Panthers’ true freshman Kenny Pickett made his first career start, and looked poised beyond his years.
Pickett went 18 for 29 through the air with 193 passing yards and a touchdown. He added a huge pair of rushing touchdowns, carrying 13 times for 60 yards. He led his team to convert 8 of 16 third downs, keeping a tired Miami defense on the field for the majority of the contest. Pitt won the time of possession battle 36:30 to 23:30
If his first start is any indication, Pickett is on his way to a great career in Western PA.
Meanwhile, Miami’s Malik Rosier played his worst game in 12 career starts. The junior went 15 for 34 for 187 yards and 2 touchdowns, but missed open receivers early and often. Miami converted on just 4 of their 15 third downs.
Rosier, who lost for the first time as a starting quarterback (now 11-1), was benched mid way through the 4th quarter in favor of backup Evan Shirreffs, who didn’t fare any better. Shirreffs went 0 for 2 and the Hurricanes could not convert a first down with him under center. Rosier returned for Miami’s final two series.
Miami’s defense forced two turnovers in the game, but the offense couldn’t turn either of those into points.
Linebacker Michael Pinckney recovered a second quarter fumble after a bad Pittsburgh snap. Miami took over at their own 49 yard line, but went three and out.
Later in the quarter, Sheldrick Redwine jarred the ball loose on a massive hit, and Jaquan Johnson recovered at the Pittsburgh 42. But again, the offense couldn’t cash in. Miami’s two takeaways resulted in zero points.
Running on empty
As a team, the Hurricanes rushed for just 49 yards. Pitt had little trouble running the football, collecting 158 yards on the ground.
Under head coach Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh is 11-2 when holding opponents to under 100 rushing yards.
Hurricanes starting running back Travis Homer managed just 12 yards on 7 carries. Miami got out-muscled on the line of scrimmage by the Pittsburgh defensive front.
The punting game was a liability for Miami. The Hurricanes struggled in the field position battle, with true freshman Zach Feagles only averaging 36 yards on 10 punts. One of his punts was shanked for just 13 yards, and led to a Pittsburgh touchdown.
Time to bounce back
All is not lost for Miami, as they still have major goals ahead. The Hurricanes clinched the ACC’s Coastal Division two weeks ago, and can win their first ACC Championship when they face the 3rd ranked Clemson Tigers. Miami’s last meeting with Clemson was a 58-0 drubbing in 2015 that led to the dismissal of former head coach Al Golden.
Mark Richt’s Canes will look for payback and a conference crown in the rematch. If the dominoes fall in Miami’s favor, a victory (especially an impressive one) could get them back into the College Football Playoff picture.
Kickoff for Miami-Clemson is set for 8:00 PM on Saturday, December 2nd from Charlotte, North Carolina.