Miami made it look simple. Capitalize on a few Pitt mistakes, and that's pretty much all they needed to do in a 41-31 win over Pitt on Friday night.
Stacy Coley had two first quarter touchdown receptions, along with a touchdown run in the second quarter. It was more than enough for Miami on the scoreboard.
"Certainly give Miami credit," head coach Paul Chryst said. "It's a good football team. We did too many things to hurt ourselves. We've got to own that. I'm proud of the guys and we did some good things."
Quarterback Stephen Morris had one of his best games of the season, throwing for 296 yards and three touchdowns. Coley finished the game with 73 yards on three catches, joined by Allen Hurns' 173 yards on nine catches.
Isaac Bennett also had one of his best games of the season for Pitt--141 yards and a touchdown on the ground, along with a 19-yard reception. Tyler Boyd set the new Pitt freshman record for receptions in a season (77), leading Pitt with nine catches for 98 yards. Boyd surpasses Larry Fitzgerald's 2002 record of 69.
Manasseh Garner tacked on four catches for 78 yards.
Miami jumped out to a 14-0 lead, barely two minutes into the game, after a pair of Pitt miscues.
After Pitt fumbled away the opening kickoff, Miami recovered the ball at the Pitt 35. Stacy Coley scored on a 32-yard touchdown three plays later.
After holding Pitt's offense on its first series of the game, the Hurricances got a piece of a Matt Yoklic punt. The punt went just nine yards.
Again, same scenario. Morris to Coley from 34 yards out. The Hurricanes led 14-0.
"It was mental errors," safety Jason Hendricks added. "We had the coverage bust on the first touchdown. We had miscommunication and that led to a big play."
Pitt got a little bit back when Isaac Bennett burst through the left side of the line for a 45-yard touchdown run, making it a 14-7 game.
Miami answered, this time after an 18-play drive. Unlike their first two drives, though, the Hurricanes had to settle for a 29-yard field goal from Matt Goudis. This drive was aided by a substitution infraction against Pitt--too many men on the field. And that was for a punt, a chance to get the defense off the field. Instead of a Miami punt, they got a first down at the Pitt 33.
The Hurricanes got some help later in the drive on another penalty later on the drive, a pass interference call, that set Miami up with a first-and-10 at the Pitt 11.
Despite all that help, the Pitt defense tightened up, holding the Hurricanes to the 29-yard field goal.
Gus Edwards quickly kept the momentum going, a seven-yard touchdown run, as Miami led 24-7, five seconds into the second quarter, a three-play, 80-yard drive.
Pitt drove to the Miami 26. However, Chris Blewitt's 43-yard attempt fell short. Blewitt had made his last seven in a row.
Pitt made some progress on its next drive. The highlight of the drive was a 19-yard catch from Bennett, then later another 19-yarder to Boyd.
Pitt maintained a six-minute drive. It was their first trip to the red zone in the game. Like we've seen in other games this season, they stumbled once again. Blewitt connected on a 36-yarder, cutting Miami's lead to 24-10, with lss than three minutes left in the first half.
As Miami got set to run out the half, even that went faster than anticipated for the Hurrianes. Coley, who scored on two touchdown catches, took an end-around 73 yards for a touchdown.
To sum up the first half, there were four touchdown drives--three for Miami, one for Pitt. Pitt's touchdown drive was the longest, 1:34. There were wo field goal drives in the half, one for each team, the two overall longest drives of the half. Miami's field goal drive lasted 6:34, Pitt's 6:35.
"We saw that we were down," running back Bennett said. "With every opportunity that we had we knew we had to step up and come together. We had to encourage everyone to come together and do their part so we are able to get first downs and eventually score."
Pitt got on the board first in he he third quarter. A 32-yard run by Ibrahim keyed the Panthers' opening drive of the second half. Savage scrambled in from seven yards out, rolling to his left, diving into the end zone. Pitt trailed 31-17, with 6:59 left in the third quarter.
And, unlike the disparity in the scoring drives of the first half, the Pitt offense marched 92 yards on 10 plays for this touchdown.
Goudis added a 39-yarder for Miami, to start the fourth quarter. The Hurricanes led 34-17.
Pitt was able to answer on a 23-yard pass from Savage to Rachid Ibrahim. Ibrahim's touchdown capped a 13-play, 95-yard drive. Pitt's two longest drives of the season both came in he second half of the game.
Ibrahim, seeing his most efficient action of the season, finished wih 51 yards rushing on four carries, and another 37 yards on three catches with a touchdown.
Miami quickly answered. Morris hit Asante Cleveland from five yards out, capping a seven-play, 78-yard drive that took 3:56 off the clock. Pitt trailed 41-24 with 3:42 left in the game. The long drives were nice to see in the second half. Based on its two long drives, 17 points was already too much to overcome at this point.
Savage did guide the offense down the field on a pair of late drives in the fourth quarter. One pass was picked off in the end zone. He did connect with Boyd on a 12-yarder, making the score 41-31 with 14 seconds left.
Savage finished with 281 yards passing with two touchdown passes and an interception.
"We just have to finish," Savage added. "We didn't do it. We have to execute better in the red zone and take advantage of being down there. We have to put points on the board. They are too good of a team to be down in the red zone to not take advantage of it."
Pitt made some stops in the second half to get the ball back. They were never able to overcome the two early mistakes, leading to two Miami touchdowns. That right there was enough to make the difference on the scoreboard.
"I think the things that stick out in my mind that caused us trouble were the kickoff return where we fumbled and the first pass against our defense was a busted coverage," Chryst said. "I didn't see anybody not giving good effort. We didn't play smart. The penalties have to stop. They got points off of that. I think it was more execution and our mental errors than it was our effort."
Prior to the game, Pitt honored its 18 seniors, including Devin Street, who was held out due to injury. The Panthers also lost starting defensive end Bryan Murphy (head) and Kevin Weatherspoon (ankle) during the game.