The Pittsburgh Panthers put a significant dent in the Miami Hurricanes' College Football Playoff aspirations with a 24-14 upset win at Heinz Field on Friday.
No. 2 Miami entered the matchup with a 15-game winning streak that dated back to last season.
Pitt has had a disappointing 2017 with a 4-7 record prior to this matchup. This will be the first season the Panthers will have missed a bowl game since 2007, so this was their biggest contest of the year, and they delivered.
The Panthers defense allowed just 232 total yards. Miami head coach Mark Richt was so frustrated by that group he even made a quarterback change in the fourth quarter, inserting Evan Shirreffs for one drive.
Miami starting QB Malik Rosier's overall stat line saw him go 15-of-34 for 187 yards and two touchdowns in defeat.
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, on the other hand, looked right at home in his first career start. He went 18-of-29 with 193 yards passing, and put up 60 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Before the contest, Pitt Football tweeted a nugget about the last time it had a true freshman quarterback start a game:
Pitt Football @Pitt_FB
Kenny Pickett is QB1 today. Last time we started a true freshman QB? Pat Bostick. Dec. 1, 2007. Pitt 13, #2 WVU 9. #H2P #BeatMiami https://t.co/gJcFoKNhea2017-11-24 17:07:30
In addition to his rushing touchdown at the end of the second quarter that gave Pitt the lead for good, Pickett had the dagger with 2:54 left in the fourth quarter with a 22-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-5, via ESPN:
Panthers pull it off! 7-loss Pitt stuns No. 2 Miami, ending the longest win streak in FBS at 15. https://t.co/AKL214JbvO2017-11-24 20:29:42
Pickett didn't generate a lot of hype as a recruit. The New Jersey native was rated as a 3-star prospect and No. 33 pro-style quarterback in the 2017 class, per 247Sports.
ESPN's David Pollack took notice of what Pickett did physically and intangibly:
David Pollack @davidpollack47
I really like this true freshmen QB for Pitt #8 Kenny Pickett! The arm and wheels are obvious but I love his toughness/competitiveness.2017-11-24 18:29:02
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi was so confident in what he saw from his team early that coming out of the locker room for the third quarter he told ESPN's Allison Williams the Panthers were going to win:
Connor O'Gara @cjogara
PAT NARDUZZI JUST CALLED HIS SHOT AND WALKED OFF https://t.co/vJAr5fX23b2017-11-24 18:53:24
Narduzzi made reference to the Panthers' 2007 upset against West Virginia and last year's 43-42 win over eventual national champion Clemson.
Even before last week's slow start against Virginia, Miami flirted with disaster at various points. It had a stretch of four straight games from Oct. 7 through Oct. 28 that were all decided by eight points or fewer.
Because of those close calls, Miami found itself at No. 10 in the first playoff rankings released Oct. 31 and behind six teams with one loss, despite being an ACC team with a 7-0 record.
It wasn't until the Hurricanes' win over Virginia Tech on Nov. 4 that they were taken seriously as a national title contender. A 41-8 victory against Notre Dame elevated them into the top tier.
Friday's game against Pitt took the shape of many of those early-season tilts, including the early deficits that Miami has been so good at overcoming, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
.@Pitt_FB leads @CanesFootball 10-7 at halftime. Miami is 4-0 when trailing at half this season. Only Texas A&M has more such wins (5-3).2017-11-24 18:32:55
After Richt made the change at quarterback, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald had some fun with what's been going on at that position for the Miami Dolphins this season:
Barry Jackson @flasportsbuzz
So Rosier, after a very good year for an unbeaten team, gets benched and replaced by a QB with no major offers except Miami, and Cutler doesn't get benched? I give up.2017-11-24 19:57:12
Offense hasn't been a strength for Miami. The Hurricanes entered Friday ranked a respectable 33rd in scoring with 33.7 points per game, but a lot of that production has been boosted by a defense that ranked third in the nation with 27 forced turnovers.
Pitt did commit two two turnovers, but none led to points for Miami, and the Panthers still held possession for more than 36 minutes of game time.
Even though Miami's undefeated season has ended, David Wilson of the Cox Media Group offered playoff hopes for the Hurricanes:
David Wilson @DBWilson2
OK, that was ugly as hell, but Miami's still in if it wins next week. A 1-loss ACC champion with wins against Clemson and Notre Dame isn't getting left out.2017-11-24 20:34:37
After Miami was bumped up to No. 2 in the playoff rankings this week, College Football Playoff chairman Kirby Hocutt talked about the team's progress and resume as two of its biggest strengths, per Kevin Cunningham of Landof10.com:
“We talked about a Miami team that has shown progress over the last three weeks. They have really strengthened their resume the last three weeks. We see characteristics of a championship team with Miami. They were down 14 points in the second half and came back to win. They have an ever slight edge over Clemson this week."
Richt will have one week to get his team to regroup heading into the ACC Championship Game against Clemson on Dec. 2 in their first meeting since 2015.
There are parallels between Miami's loss to Pittsburgh and Clemson's loss earlier this season to Syracuse. Pitt and Syracuse both entered this week with 4-7 records and were playing at home when they pulled off their respective upsets.
Clemson had the benefit of losing in October, giving it two months to rebuild its resume. Miami doesn't have that luxury, but it would be hard to argue against a one-loss ACC champion that boasts wins over Clemson, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.
For now, though, Pittsburgh will bask in the glow of an impressive victory over Miami that has brought about more chaos in the playoff rankings with little time remaining to sort things out.