Pitt came into the game this week looking for their first win against an ACC opponent this season. Coach Narduzzi was looking for the running game to get started as he considered it a key to the game. ‘We talked, the key to victory was being able to run the football,” coach Pat Narduzzi said. ”And I think we proved we can do that.” The Panthers have been close all season, but have not been able to close the deal in conference play. This week, they used Darrin Hall’s record setting day in the running game to beat the Blue Devils. Hall would finish with 254 yards and 3 touchdowns as Pitt would beat Duke 24-17.
Darrin Hall would set a Pitt record with a 92 yard run in the second half that would cut a 17-7 Duke lead down to 3. It was a record that had stood for over 100 years. Hall had a 79 yard touchdown run in the first half also. He would later salt the game away with another touchdown to cap off his big day. Duke came into the game with one of College Football’s best running defenses. Hall and his teammates ran for 336 yards on the day.
Narduzzi’s comments when asked about Hall: “Darrin Hall was amazing today. If he isn’t ACC Player of the Week, then I don’t know what’s going on. We give him credit for making plays, but our O-line was great at opening holes for him. We made a few adjustments to the blocking scheme in practice this week. Plus, we challenged our offensive line all week and they came through. ”
Ben DiNucci struggled throwing the ball, but would make plays when he needed too. Jester Weah bailed his quarterback out several times today including an important catch in a late drive. It was a 52 yard pass in which he and the defender both came down with the ball. It was ruled a 50/50 ball on the field which goes to the offensive player and it was ruled so on the field.
DiNucci would finish the game 8-18 for 149 yards and no interceptions. The no interceptions was in fact the best stat to pull out of the young quarterback’s game.
The defense was good early but Duke would begin to take control in that third quarter as Pitt’s defense would give up a couple of big pass plays on blown coverages. The Panthers secondary was challenged even more today as they would lose yet another important starter. Avonte Maddox would come down awkwardly on his arm and after writhing in pain near the side line, his head coach knew he was injured badly and he grabbed him and drug him on the field to get him immediate attention. Maddox was later shown in a sling, wrapped with ice on his forearm. The actual fall looked very ugly.
Jordan Whitehead would get burned on the Blue Devils second touchdown, but would redeem himself late as he would get an interception to seal up the game late.
Half way through the third quarter when Duke took control, there were several points where it would have been fitting for Narduzzi to replace his quarterback. He should have been replaced as he was largely ineffective throughout the game. The Panthers lack of vertical passing game hurts the running game also and at times, you saw that during the third quarter. That quarter is a real problem for Narduzzi and his VERY YOUNG PANTHERS.
It was not until that fourth quarter where they got back to running inside when that running game really began to weigh on the Duke defense.
Something else interesting we saw today and that was the transition of Ollison to a fullback. He had carries at tailback yes, but he was in there blocking for Hall who came into the game with just over 100 yards rushing on the year. He ended the game with 254 yards and put himself in the drivers seat as the starter moving forward.
The Panthers will Look for continued success at home this coming week as they host the the Virginia Cavaliers.