Canada makes gutsy call
Knowing very well that his team faced a potential late-game meltdown for its third-straight game, Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman motioned for the snap on third and three as the game clock at Heinz Field ticked under 1:30 in the fourth quarter with Pitt up three points. Peterman floated a 30-yard pass intended for Jester Weah along the hash mark that boardered Pitt’s sideline, and Weah made a mid-air, 180-degree turn on the slightly-underthrown toss-up. He caught it, broke a cornerback tackle, and scored a 54-yard touchdown that gave Pitt a 37-27 lead.
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said that offensive coordinator Matt Canada called for the deep ball to Weah in Marshall’s timeout before the play, deferring his tier-two option, which was to hand the ball off to Chawntez Moss.
“[Canada] said, ‘Do you want to go for the touchdown or run it up there and see what happens?’” Narduzzi said. “I said, ‘I want to go for the touchdown.’”
Price is national sacks leader
Pitt defensive end Ejuan Price is three months away from his 24th birthday. He’s older and wiser than his counterparts, and he is playing like a 20-year-old 12th grader.
Price smothered Marshall quarterback Chase Litton twice for a total loss of 24 yards. Price now leads the nation in sacks (7.5) through five games, but Pitt’s defensive line was not very disruptive in the second half, as Marshall’s veteran offensive line provided enough time for Litton to complete 10 of 19 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
“We don’t know where the holes were,” Price said after the game. “We don’t know where we were leaking. Everybody wants to stop the leak, but we just have to figure it out sooner.”
Pitt’s passing trumps rushing
Peterman went 17 of 23 for 280 yards through the air with two touchdowns and no interceptions. At least three of his incompletions were accurate enough to be caught. It was Peterman’s most effective game of the season.
It was also a game in which the Pitt backfield’s eldest statesman ran for just 39 yards. James Conner was surpassed in handoffs and yardage by freshman Moss, who took 12 carries for 97 yards.
“Nathan, he was throwing darts out there, and guys were catching the football," Narduzzi said. “We threw for more yards today than we rushed. That’s unusual.”
PantherMore.com exclusive: Hall has concussion
Coming into Pitt’s contest with Marshall, Pitt running back Darrin Hall was second to Conner in carries.
PantherMore.com had learned during the game that Hall is concussed. Hall patrolled the sidelines Saturday in street clothes.
Pitt cools its jets on sweeps
In the first half of Pitt’s game Saturday, the Panthers conducted eight outside rushes for 84 yards (10.5 yards per carry).
In the second half? Three outside rushes for a total of four yards.
Peterman motions for the jet sweeps, which will be handed to the likes of Quadree Henderson, Tre Tipton, Maurice Ffrench, George Aston and Conner, after reading the defense on plays where Canada awards him a run-pass option.
Peterman was not available for comment after the game.
Pitt cornerback Avonte Maddox scored a pick six as time expired, putting the Panthers up 43-27. Collegiate rules did not require Pitt to attempt an extra point, which, if good, would have given Pitt a 17-point win.
The spread in Las Vegas? Pitt -16.5.
From the NCAA rule book:
If a touchdown is scored during a down in which time in the fourth period expires, the try shall not be attempted unless the point(s) would affect the outcome of the game.