Pitt scored five touchdowns in the second quarter and led by multiple scores, but that didn't mean head coach Pat Narduzzi would let his team relent. He knew Bobby Petrino's Louisville team certainly wouldn't.
The Cardinals cut the Panthers lead to one-score in the second half but Pitt made a late field goal and halted Louisville's second-half rally in a 45-34 victory Saturday.
"We talked about it at the half," Narduzzi said. "I said, 'Hey we aren't worried about winning this game, it's just by how many points are we going to win this game?'"
Ejuan Price notched five sacks, Nate Peterman threw for four scores, Tyler Boyd caught 11 passes for 103 yards and Qadree Ollison topped 1,000 yards on the season to lead Pitt (8-3, 6-1 ACC).
Jamari Staples caught nine passes for 194 yards and a touchdown for Louisville (6-5, 5-3). Kyle Bolin threw for two touchdowns before Lamar Jackson replaced him just before halftime and threw for a score then ran for another in the second half.
Louisville led 10-7 after the first quarter but Pitt responded with 21 unanswered points. Peterman hit Tyler Boyd for a 35-yard touchdown to start the quarter, then found Dontez Ford from 32 yards out on Pitt's next drive.
The Panthers went up 28-10 with 5:02 left in the half when Peterman faked to Ollison and tossed to fullback George Aston in the flat, who scored at the pylon.
"In the first half we were just clicking," Boyd said. "Everything coach Chaney was calling we were executing it perfectly."
Kyle Bolin connected with Traveon Samuel for an 18-yard touchdown to draw the Cardinals to within 28-17.
Peterman responded with another touchdown pass to Aston aggain from four yards out after a play-action fake, but to the other side of the field.
"Coming in we knew that we were going to bite on our play fakes," Aston said. "I was wide open because of the play fakes and the offensive line was killing them running the ball today."
Avonte Maddox intercepted a Bolin pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown and 42-17 Pitt lead with 35 seconds left in the half.
After Maddox's pick six, the Cardinals scored 17 unanswered points to pull within a score of Pitt. Lamar Jackson replaced Bolin before the half ended and led a 32-second scoring drive with a pass to Jamari Staples from 49 yards out.
Lousville forced a 3-and-out to begin the second half and John Wallace converted a 37-yard field goal. Jackson scored on a three-yard rush after Staples eluded multiple Pitt tacklers on a short pass to convert a 3rd and 13, which made the score 42-34 with 12:55 to play in the game.
The teams traded 3-and-outs before Ollison turned the tide with a 35-yard rush into the red zone. Louisville stuffed Ollison on three carries near the goal line before Chris Blewitt hit a 18-yard field goal to give the Panthers a two-score advantage.
Pitt forced a turnover on down near midfield on Louisville's next drive and ran the clock out.
"You can't play scared," Narduzzi said. "You're playing to win, you're not playing to not lose."