Pitt's won four games four different ways this season, and today they proved to lose a third different way.
Pitt had a 17-13 lead with eight minutes remaining, that they couldn't hold on to. Navy was able to answer with a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Keenan Reynolds, and then a 30-yard field goal attempt by Nick Sloan as time expired.
"Give Navy credit, in a 60-minute game, they found a way to win," head coach Paul Chryst said afterwards. "Obviously, we did not make enough plays to win the game."
Devin Street highlighted Pitt's offensive efforts with nine catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Tom Savage, despite some shortcomings early on, threw for 207 yards passing on 20-of-27 completions, with two touchdown passes. Isaac Bennett, coming off his 240-yard performance last week, rushed for 77 yards on 22 carries.
Pitt jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, a 25-yard field goal by Chris Blewitt. The offense was sluggish, yet good enough to lead to a field goal. Pitt's defense took a solid stand, holding Navy to no first downs in the first 15 minutes of play.
It looked like the Pitt offense was establishing some momentum to start the second quarter. After Savage hit Street for a gain of 10, Conner fumbled the ball away. Navy took over at its own 41.
On that first play, Keenan Reynolds--on his first passing attempt of the game--evaded a heavy rush from Aaron Donald. Reynolds intended target had the ball deflect out of his hands, and into the hands of Marcus Thomas. Thomas was able to evade just one Pitt defender, on his way on for a 59-yard touchdown score. Navy took a 7-6 lead.
Though Pitt was able to move the ball on Navy. Savage found Street wide open on a playaction pass to start the drive. Bennett added a 10-yard run to convert another first down. However, the Panthers stumbled when they got into Navy territory.
Blewitt tacked on his second field goal of the game, a 44-yard. Pitt trailed 7-6 with 9:23 left in the second quarter.
When faced with a third-and-short, something Pitt struggled with early on, Jaymar Parrish got his first career. Parrish's five-yard run set Pitt up at the Navy 11. Once again, Pitt stumbled. A false start penalty set them back five yards. Then, it was an illegal formation for another five yards docked. The good news is that the Panthers were still setup with a first and goal. The bad news, it was at the Navy 13 yard-line.
Three plays later, Savage hit Street over the middle in the end zone, for a 12-yard touchdown pass. Pitt regained the lead, 13-7, with 1:41 left in the first half. Street had six catches for 67 yards, alone, in the first half.
Despite the slip up on the Navy touchdown pass, Pitt allowed just two first downs, possessing the ball for over 22 minutes in the first half. Navy entered the game leading the country with over 17 rushing first downs per game. They had just one prior to the final drive of the half.
Navy--only averaging 12 pass attempts per game--marched down the field from its own 27, completing two of seven passes. They supplemented it four rushing first downs, averaging nine yards per run on those conversions, driving all the way to the Pitt 23.
K'Waun Williams saved the drive, picking off a pass at the Pitt one yard-line, on a Navy third-and-ten play from the Pitt 23. Pitt took a 13-7 lead into halftime.
Despite gaining a little bit of offensive momentum at the end of the first half, the Midshipmen could not carry it over to their first drive of the second half. Pitt held the to their third three-and-out of the game.
Unfortunately, the Panthers also went three-and-out on its first series of the second half.
The Pitt defense kept its momentum going, as Bryan Murphy sacked Reynolds for a loss of 10 to end Navy's second drive of the third quarter. After the punt, Pitt took over at the Navy 49.
"I thought Bryan Murphy played real well today," Chryst added. "I thought our core defense played pretty disciplined for the majority of the game."
Though Pitt started its second series of the half with some decent running yardage, they got hit with another pre-snap penalty--a false start that made it a third-and-11. Savage's pass to Bennett was stopped for a loss of four, forcing Pitt to punt.
Penalties also hit the defensive side of the ball for Pitt. K'Waun Williams was called for pass interference on Navy's next series, converting a third-and-six.
The Midshipmen were getting in a rhythm running the football. After they crossed the ball, rushing six times for 37 yards, they got to the Pitt 32. Not even a false start penalty against Navy, which pushed them them to a third-and-six at the Pitt 34, could stop them. Chris Swain ran for a gain of four, and then a gain of two by Demond Brown to convert a fourth-and-two.
Navy got all the way to the Pitt 12, still down 13-7 at the end of the third quarter. Facing a third-and-two, Navy converted a short first down gain, before Quinton Singleton took it in run nine yards out.
Despite Pitt controlling the clock for the first half, over 22 minutes, Navy had possession of the ball for 11 minutes of the third quarter. That including the 16-play, 91-yard drive that lasted 8:15. Navy regained the lead, 14-13, with 14:28 remaining.
While Pitt did a good job of keeping the Navy offense off the field in the first half, they couldn't do the same in the second half.
"Whether they were running away from my side, or not, I'm not really sure," defensive end Bryan Murphy said. "We really didn't scheme that, so I'm not sure what to say."
Pitt answered with its most efficient drive of the day. They needed one, or at least one long enough to give the defense a rest after being on the field for over eight minutes. Savage completed all six passes on the drive, totaling 58 yards, and capping it off with a three-yard touchdown pass to Boyd.
Savage threw to four different players, while completing three passes to Street for a total of 29 yards. He even connected with Street for the two-point conversion, giving Pitt a 17-13 lead with 8:07 left.
But Navy was still able to answer. Reynolds took it in from two yards out, tying it up at 21-21 with 3:52 left. He set up his own score by scrambling away for a gaine of 21 on the previous play, highlighting a 10-play, 71-yard drive.
Despite having Navy's ground game figured out for the first half, and for the first two series of the second half, Pitt didn't have much of an answer for them on their second half touchdown drives.
And the Panthers didn't have much of an answer on offense. They went three-and-out, which included a sack, a short passing play, and a scramle out of the pocket for Savage that led to minimal gain.
"We needed to come up with a big stop," Navy linebacker Obi Uzoma said. "The sack was due to the great, great coverage on the back end."
Navy called timeout, receiving the ball by punt, with one more drive and 1:45 left. Matt Yoklic shanked a 20-yard kick that officials called out of bounds at the Pitt 49.G
Navy, starting at the Pitt 49, took 12 plays, running the clock down to a single second remaining for Sloan to hit the game-winning kick. Even more impressive the fact that Navy's triple-option attack ran a two-minute offense with 10 running plays. Granted, they didn't have far to go. In the end, t was just enough to get in field goal range.
Interestingly, Navy's 220 yards rushing today is the second-lowest output of the season, behind a 107-yard performance against Western Kentucky earlier this season.
"We'll just go back and work hard, and we'll see you next week," linebacker Todd Thomas said. "We're fine. We'll be fine. We just have to find a way to win next week."