Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest score: No. 15 Panthers win first ACC championship, clinch New Year's Six bowl berth

No. 15 Pittsburgh claimed its first-ever ACC title with a dominant 45-21 win over No. 16 Wake Forest in the 2021 ACC Championship Game. The path to victory included an early deficit, some record-breaking moments for Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett and ultimately a huge performance for the Panthers defense against a potent Demon Deacons attack. 

Both Pittsburgh and Wake Forest entered Saturday averaging more than 40 points per game, so when the score was 21-14 just 15 minutes into the game, the expectation of a high-scoring back-and-forth seemed to be playing out on the field. However, the Panthers settled down on defense, started getting relentless pressure on Wake Forest qb Sam Hartman and rolled off 31 unanswered points across the next three quarters in a dominant full-team performance. 

Hartman started the day with three first quarter touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) but finished with four interceptions and a completion mark below 50%. As an entire offense, Wake Forest totaled just 35 yards in the second quarter, 57 in the third quarter and 17 in the fourth quarter. And those interceptions powered easy scoring opportunities for Pitt to turn an otherwise competitive game into a blowout win. 

While the efforts of the Pitt defense stood out as a difference in the game, the evening was still a moment for Pickett to shine. Pickett's first passing touchdown moved him ahead of Dan Marino in the Pitt record books for most career passing touchdowns, and his second passing touchdown moved him ahead of Deshaun Watson for the ACC single-season record. Pickett is still just a few scores away from challenging Lamar Jackson's single-season total touchdowns record, thanks in part to a 58-yard touchdown run that opened up the scoring on Saturday night. 

For Wake Forest, the result is obviously disappointing considering how the performance was so far off from the success that its offense had against most of its opponents this season. Coach Dave Clawson has built a program that stands with merit as an ACC title contender, but it was not in the cards on Saturday night for the school's first ACC title since 2006.

Pitt, meanwhile, advanced to a New Year's Six bowl game as the ACC champion. CBS Sports bowls expert Jerry Palm projects that the Panthers will face Notre Dame in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 30.

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December 5, 2021, 2:46 AM
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