Late in the second quarter, true freshman Pitt QB Kenny Pickett directed an impressive 68-yard touchdown drive that put the Panthers ahead 10-7 at halftime.
ABOUT MIAMI (10-0, 7-0 ACC): Manny Diaz's hungry defense didn't show the same urgency last week as it had in the big victories over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, but the unit roared back from an uninspired first half in which Virginia nearly moved the ball at will thanks to precision passing from quarterback Kurt Benkert to carrying the team after intermission and slamming the door on Benkert and company. Miami accrued just 232 yards of total offense against Pittsburgh, and went 4-of-15 on third down. He was briefly pulled in the fourth quarter in favor of redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs.
Even before last week's slow start against Virginia, Miami flirted with disaster at various points this season.
Because of those close calls, Miami found itself ranked No. 10 in the first playoff rankings released October 31 and behind six teams with one loss, despite being an ACC team with a 7-0 record at the time. A win Friday likely would not have put them in this position.
Offense hasn't been a strength for Miami. The turnover chain came out three times for the game, giving Miami 19 takeaways in the last five contests, and defensive back Jaquan Johnson came up with perhaps the biggest, momentum-changing play of the game with his 30-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter that tied the score for the second time.
"We talked about a Miami team that has shown progress over the last three weeks". On Oct. 28 against North Carolina, they led by one at the half before pulling away for a 24-19 win. "They have an ever slight edge over Clemson this week".
Clemson had the benefit of losing in October, giving itself two months to rebuild its resume. With one-loss Clemson and undefeated Miami set to meet in next weekend's conference title game, the (unlikely) two-team scenario still had a pulse.