Seemingly no sooner than the game started, Miami opened up a three-score lead as Pitt started slowly once again. As in losses to North Carolina and Notre Dame, the Panthers couldn't overcome an early deficit.
The Hurricanes staved off a late comeback attempt by the Panthers to notch a 29-24 victory at Heinz Field Friday.
"They came ready to play," Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. "They made plays in the first half and we didn’t."
Pitt (8-4, 6-2 ACC) finished its first regular season with at least eight wins since 2009. Miami (8-4, 5-3 ACC) went 4-1 under interim head coach Larry Scott.
Tyler Boyd, who played possibly his last game as a Panther at Heinz Field, thought the team tried to do too much as the players wanted to win on Senior Day. Boyd caught five passes for 70 yards.
"Those guys are role models to us," Boyd said, "those are guys we look up to. I guess guys got gassed up too early and didn’t have enough on the field."
Joe Yearby gashed the Panthers for 57 yards on the game's opening drive, which Miami capped with a touchdown on Brad Kaaya's fourth-down sneak. Artie Burns then intercepted Nate Peterman on his first pass attempt and Michael Badgley made a 33-yard field goal.
The Panthers sustained their first drive on the ensuing possession but walked away empty-handed after Chris Blewitt missed a 45-yard field goal. Kaaya completed a 48-yard pass to Stacy Coley on a flea flicker, then found Rashawn Scott in the end zone from 22 yards out for a 17-0 lead.
"I think just a lot of mistakes early," Peterman said accounted for the slow start. "With my interception there on the first drive, it was a huge momentum swing in the wrong way for us. I wanted to come out there and answer that score and I throw an interception on the second play."
Peterman looked for J.P. Holtz on a shallow route outside but was surprised when Burns was there alongside the man covering Holtz.
"I didn’t see that corner fall," Peterman said. "I saw [Holtz[ open earlier and need to do a better job with broad vision and, especially early in the game, hit that checkdown."
Badgley and Blewitt traded field goals in the second quarter before Badgley made a 23-yard field goal as time expired for a 23-3 Miami edge at halftime.
Pitt went to Darrin Hall on five consecutive plays and he responded with a 35-yard touchdown on his fifth carry. The Panthers' first touchdown cut Miami's lead to 23-10.
Badgley made two more field goals before Peterman completed a two-yard touchdown pass to Scott Orndoff, then ran in a two-point conversion to draw Pitt within 29-18. Peterman scored on the ground again with a five-yard rush that made the score 29-24.
Pitt stopped Miami but took back possession at the 20 with only six seconds remaining and the Panthers' end-game lateral gambit resulted in a fumble out of bounds.
"Sometimes here on Senior Day I’ve seen guys not play as well period," Narduzzi said. "Sometimes it’s tough, there’s a lot of emotions out there in a game like that and you’ve got a lot of seniors out there playing their last game at Heinz Field, sometimes that plays a factor."