However, Pittsburgh (3-1) couldn't convert with a first-and-goal gift from the 8-yard line with host North Carolina State holding a 38-31 lead. The Panthers ran for a yard, and then quarterback Bill Stull threw three straight incomplete passes to end any hope for a tied score to send the game into overtime.
Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt explained what happened on that series.
"Obviously, we felt good about our running game, and they stopped that,'' Wannstedt said. "Then we had a little bit of pressure, and we throw an incomplete pass. The (third-down pass) to Dorin Dickerson was very close to being a touchdown. They were plays that we felt good about executing. On the last play, Oderick Turner was coming open for the score.
"They ran a play up front, and Billy had pressure in his face and had to get rid of the ball (to avoid) being sacked. I wouldn't second guess the plays. We didn't execute or they did a good job of executing. ... But that was an opportunity to tie the game, and we didn't get it done. I think that series was probably indicative of the entire fourth quarter and the last four minutes in the third.''
Stull admitted that the Panthers have a set package of plays when it's first-and-goal, but inexplicably a toss to sophomore wideout Jonathan Baldwin -- that's the nearly 6-foot-6, 220-pound Baldwin with a 42-inch vertical leap -- was not called. Even if the entire stadium knows the play, Baldwin still could pull it down.
"We called our two best plays,'' Stull said. "The power run with Dion and with Dorin in the middle. He went up and made a heck of an effort, but I guess he didn't come up with it. I thought he was in, as you could see from our reaction on tape. But it's a game of inches, and we didn't get one in our favor that time.
"If we could have gotten to overtime, who knows what would have happened? I could have given Oderick a better chance, too, but it didn't happen. I could have anticipated pressure (and) made a better throw. When I let it go, I thought it wasn't too bad. But after looking at it on tape, it was nowhere near him.
"And that made it even more disappointing to myself,'' Stull added. "You want that, as a quarterback, and you dream about getting a chance to win a game at the end like that or get a touchdown to force overtime and then win it in overtime. But I didn't make a play there when we needed it."
Another option could have been a power blast by fullback Henry Hynoski. He stayed in to block for Lewis on first down, but left the field after that.
"We have to trust our coaches, that they're going to put us in the best position that they possibly can to win the game, and they felt that they didn't need me in there,'' Hynoski said. "So, that's fine. We have a lot of other weapons that can get the job done, and that's what was decided by the coaches.''
Stull noted that was the first time he had been in a situation like that with the game on the line at that spot on the field. And it's not like those situations can be simulated in practice, he added.
"My first read wasn't open,'' Stull said. "Pressure came, and I couldn't really make it to my second read because of the pressure. But I've got to be able to make a better throw and give Oderick a chance to come down with it.
"So, it's something that I'm definitely going to learn from and make sure that I don't make the same mistake again. I knew we weren't very good on third down, but when I saw the stats I was very disappointed. And I take responsibility for that and put that state on myself. So, we're putting more emphasis on our third-down plays, and we definitely need to get better in that area.''
With a 2-for-10 performance on third down against N.C. State, including that final series, Pitt is a dismal 15-for-34 on third down (about 34 percent) and 3-for-4 (75 percent) on fourth down.
What Happened During That Final Series?
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