No. 10 Michigan State pulled off a 31-21 come-from-behind victory over No. 12 Pittsburgh on Thursday night, scoring 15 points over the final 3 minutes to pull off the epic win in the 2021 Peach Bowl. The Spartans scored 21 unanswered points in the final frame after trailing 21-10 at the end of the third quarter.
Before the game started, the story was how Pitt quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett had opted out of the game to prepare for the NFL Draft, forcing the Panthers to turn the ball over to backup Nick Patti. It wasn't long until they had to move to their third-stringer as Patti suffered a shoulder injury while scoring a 16-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7 in the first quarter. Davis Beville replaced him, and while the Panthers held on for as long as possible, the loss of Patti was simply too much to overcome.
The truth is that Michigan State kept Pitt in the game. The Spartans held the Panthers to 274 yards of offense on the evening but kept shooting themselves in the foot offensively. Perhaps that shouldn't have been a surprise considering Sparty was missing star running back Kenneth Walker III.
Michigan State turned the ball over twice, including once in the red zone, and missed a field goal to boot. The second turnover was a Payton Thorne fumble on the second play of the second half that Pitt's Cam Bright scooped up and returned for a 26-yard touchdown. It's the last time Pitt scored in the game.
Michigan State found paydirt on three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 22-yard scoring pass to Jayden Reed to take the lead with 2:51 remaining. The Panthers responded with a nice drive into Spartans territory, but Beville was intercepted by Cal Haladay, who took the ball 78 yards to the house to finish Pitt. The pick six swung the result of the game in its final seconds for bettors; Michigan State closed as 3.5-point favorites, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
Michigan State QB Payton Thorne ended his effort with 354 yards passing and three touchdowns to help offset his turnover. Jalen Nailor was Thorne's leading target, catching six passes for 108 yards. Pitt was led by Jordan Addison, who caught seven passes for 114 yards and picked up 28 yards on the ground, too, but he was the Panthers' only reliable source of offense, and he couldn't do it alone.
The win means Michigan State finishes with a record of 11-2, the most in a single season for the program since it went 12-2 in 2015. Pitt finishes its campaign at 11-3, its most wins in a season since 1981.