Pittsburgh (AP) — Backup Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk bulled into the end zone from 5 yards in the second overtime to lift the 24th-ranked Blue Devils to a 51-48 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.
The Blue Devils (7-1, 3-1 ACC) held Pitt to a field goal to start the second overtime then went 25 yards in four plays, with Sirk's second touchdown of the day ending it.
The Panthers (4-5, 2-3) had a chance to win in regulation, deep into Duke territory to set up Chris Blewitt for a 26-yard field goal attempt with 2 seconds left.
The Blue Devils called two timeouts to make Blewitt think about it, and the kicker missed badly to the left.
James Conner ran for a career-high 263 yards and three touchdowns for Pitt, but didn't touch the ball in the second overtime.
The Blue Devils stayed above the fray in the crowded ACC Coastal Division and dealt the reeling Panthers a significant blow. Pitt has lost five of six after a 3-0 start while Duke remained the only team in the division with less than two losses.
Anthony Boone passed for 266 yards and three scores and added 47 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground for the Blue Devils. Jamison Crowder caught nine passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns to become the second-leading receiver in ACC history.
Devon Edwards added a 99-yard kickoff return for Duke's lone touchdown of the second half.
Despite all that, however, the Blue Devils needed a little luck to survive.
The Panthers rolled up 594 yards, including 71 on a drive that took the ball from the Pitt 20 to the Duke 9 to put Blewitt in position.
The kicker came in 2 for 2 in attempts under 30 yards. Duke coach David Cutcliffe called consecutive timeouts and brought nearly the entire roster onto the field.
The snap was good. The kick was not.
The teams traded scores in the first overtime, with Conner's third touchdown of the game coming on a typically bruising 14-yard run in which the sophomore ran through a pair of tackles before dragging defenders across the goal line.
Conner, however, did not touch the ball in the second extra period. He stood on the sideline on first down to get a breather and Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik opted to keep the ball on an option play that went nowhere. Blewitt redeemed himself with a 43-yard field goal to give the Panthers the lead.
It didn't last.
Duke entered the game with the nation's fifth-best scoring defense, allowing 15.14 points per game.
The Panthers needed less than 20 minutes to top that number during a back-and-forth first half that featured one punt, eight touchdowns and negligible tackling. The teams traded score for score, with their stars doing most of the heavy lifting.
Crowder bookended the half with a pair of big plays.
His 39-yard touchdown reception on Duke's opening drive gave the Blue Devils an early lead, and a 27-yard reception in the final seconds allowed Sirk to dive over from a yard to make it 28-all at the break.
The Panthers controlled much of the play in between behind Conner and wide receiver Tyler Boyd, the two sophomore stars who are trying to get the program out of the spin cycle of mediocrity.
Conner ran for 109 yards in the first half, including a 1-yard vault into the end zone for his 15th touchdown of the year. Boyd returned a kickoff 64 yards to set up a score and brought in a 48-yard heave from Voytik despite being blanketed by a pair of defenders to set up another.
Still, Pitt's plodding dominance couldn't put any distance between the Panthers and the resilient Blue Devils.
It cost them a chance to be a factor heading into the final month of the regular season.
Blue Devils win thriller over Pittsburgh
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