Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh score, takeaways: No. 24 Vols outlast No. 17 Panthers in overtime thriller

No. 17 Pittsburgh and No. 24 Tennessee played another thriller on Saturday as the Volunteers escaped with a 34-27 overtime win over the Panthers to avenge a 41-34 defeat in the nonconference series from a year ago. Facing a second-and-13 from the Pitt 28-yard line on the first possession of overtime, Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker found Cedric Tillman for the game-winning score. The Vols defense then held off Pitt to seal the victory. 

The Panthers were playing with backup quarterback Nick Patti after starter Kedon Slovis left the game at halftime with an injury. Patti also appeared hobbled throughout the second half but managed to lead the Panthers on a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter after a muffed Tennessee punt gave Pitt fresh life with 7:28 remaining.

Pittsburgh led 10-0 early and surged ahead 17-7 in the second quarter while Tennessee's offense was slow to get going. But the Volunteers scored 17 unanswered to close the second quarter and take a 24-17 lead into halftime. Neither team looked sharp offensively in the second half; the Panthers' game-tying score with 2:23 left marked the only non-overtime touchdown of the final 30 minutes.

Hooker starred for Tennessee by completing 27 of 42 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Tillman finished with nine receptions for 162 yards and the critical overtime touchdown for the Volunteers.

Panthers banged up

Pittsburgh will be left playing the "what if" game after a heartbreaking defeat, and many of the questions will center around personnel. A week after running for 74 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts in a 38-31 win over West Virginia, physical back Rodney Hammond Jr missed the game due to injury.

Amid his absence, the Panthers offense was more pass-heavy than in Week 1, even while dealing with quarterback injury issues. After taking a series of big hits during the first half, including a final strip-sack from Tennessee's Tyler Baron just before halftime, Slovis did not return for the second half. 

Patti, who is in his fourth season with the program, filled in admirably but was quickly hobbled himself with an apparent leg injury, and the Panthers struggled to move the football in the second half. With center Owen Drexel also out for a key stretch late in the game, the Panthers were left to piecemeal their offensive unit together.

A cleaner bill of health could have spelled a different result for the Panthers against a Tennessee team that did little to gain separation against its hobbled foe in the second half.

Tennessee's miscues

Tennessee had several opportunities to take a two-possession lead at points during the second half. After scoring on four of their final five drives of the first half, however, the Volunteers sputtered under the weight of self-inflicted errors and couldn't extend the lead while Pitt negotiated its injury issues.

An offensive pass interference penalty hampered the Vols' first drive of the third quarter, setting up an insurmountable second-and-31, which led to a punt. Tennessee's second series of the third quarter also got stuck behind the chains due to a penalty -- a false start -- and ended with a blocked punt. The Volunteers' third series of the second half began with promise but ended on its fourth play with a fumble by running back Jaylen Wright.

Even the Volunteers' lone scoring drive of the second half was hampered by setbacks, as a false start and sack turned a manageable field goal attempt into a 51-yarder that tested kicker Chase McGrath's range. Ultimately, his make with 8:57 remaining made the score 27-20 and helped the Volunteers survive another blunder.

Tennessee forced a three-and-out that went to waste with 7:28 remaining when punt returner Trevon Flowers dropped the ball, setting the Panthers up with a short field and leading to a game-tying score.

Positives still to be found

While Tennessee's second-half performance left much to be desired for a program hailed by many as a potential breakout team this season, Hooker's performance was particularly steady. Though he was sacked on three occasions and struggled with passing precision in some key spots, the redshirt senior came through when it mattered most.

In overtime, he scampered for the apparent go-ahead touchdown before it was called back due to a holding penalty that set Tennessee behind the chains once again. On the next play though, Hooker evaded pressure, stepped up in the pocket and hit a 28-yard strike to Tillman. He then found his receiver for what would turn out to be the game-winning score. Hooker also emerged from Saturday's fray without having committed a turnover, which made him a standout for a unit that dealt with its share of miscues.

Tennessee's oft-maligned defense also rose to the challenge after a rough start. Hobbled as the Panthers may have been, the Volunteers made life even more difficult by consistently pressuring Pitt's quarterbacks. Tennessee finished with four sacks and nine tackles for loss. At one point, Pitt went eight straight possessions without a touchdown.

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Vols win it

It wasn't pretty, but Tennessee pulls out a 34-27 overtime thriller at Pittsburgh. The Panthers will be left to wonder what could have been if Kedon Slovis had stayed healthy. Beyond that, Nick Patti was playing banged up as well. The Panthers' lack of perimeter playmakers seemed apparent throughout this one. Also worth noting they were without running back Rodney Hammond and playing with a backup center in key moments. Nonetheless, it's a W for the Vols.

September 10, 2022, 11:48 PM

Touchdown Tennessee

The Volunteers overcome what first seemed like a devastating holding call on a would-be Hendon Hooker touchdown run to score on the next play. Facing a second-and-13, Hooker found Cedric Tillman for a 28-yard score. PAT is good, making it 34-27 as Pitt takes possession.

September 10, 2022, 11:38 PM

Tennessee ball

Tennessee will start overtime with the football after Pitt wins the coin toss. Volunteers haven't scored a TD since the second quarter. Reminder that you must go for two starting in the second overtime now. Anything beyond two OTs results in alternating two-point conversion plays until there is a winner.

September 10, 2022, 11:35 PM

Tennessee stalls out. Overtime!

After a couple of quick-hitters to get near midfield, Tennessee stalls yet again, leading to a fourth-and-3. Vols punted it away as the game clock ran with Pitt apparently fine letting the game head to OT. Panthers had a timeout and didn't use it. Vols likely happy just to get the punt off. We are headed to overtime tied at 27.

September 10, 2022, 11:29 PM

Touchdown Pitt

Pittsburgh cashes in on Tennessee's botched punt by driving 39 yards for a huge score to tie it at 27 as backup QB Nick Patti finds Jared Wayne for a TD on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line. What a clutch throw from Patti, who was staring down the face of a Tennessee linebacker as he delivered it. Tennessee will have time as 2:23 remains, but the Vols have struggled offensively the entire half.

September 10, 2022, 11:21 PM
@Pitt_FB via Twitter
September 10, 2022, 11:15 PM

Pittsburgh on the cusp

Israel Abanikanda coming up huge on this series for the Panthers with an 11-yard run and a 21-yard reception on a screen pass to get the Panthers to the Tennessee 6-yard line down 27-20

September 10, 2022, 11:14 PM

Another special teams miscue

After having a punt blocked earlier in the half, special teams issues haunt Tennessee once again. Trevon Flowers botched the punt, and Pittsburgh falls on it. After a three-and-out, that gives the Panthers life in Tennessee territory, Pitt has done nothing offensively in this half and it needs 7 here.

September 10, 2022, 11:04 PM
@Pitt_FB via Twitter
September 10, 2022, 11:03 PM

Nick Patti at QB

It looked for a moment on Pitt's last series as if Nick Patti might be unable to keep going after he came in for the injured Kedon Slovis to begin the third quarter. But he is Pitt's QB here as the Panthers trail 27-20 midway through the fourth quarter. Dartmouth transfer Derek Kyler is the third option, if needed.

September 10, 2022, 11:02 PM

Vols go up 27-20

A false start and then a sack forced Tennessee into a fourth-and-19 from the Pitt 34. Those miscues put the Volunteers on the very cusp of field goal range but Chase McGrath nailed it from 51 to make it 27-20. Great stand by the Pitt defense, and the Vols should feel fortunate to come away with points after more miscues stalled a once-promising drive.

September 10, 2022, 10:53 PM

Tennessee moving

Thanks to a physical post-catch run from Bru McCoy on a third-down play, the Volunteers have things rolling for the first time in a while offensively. Tennessee into Pitt territory leading 24-20 with 14:07 left as we take an injury timeout. McCoy, a USC transfer who secured eligibility just before the season began, has made a couple big plays today.

September 10, 2022, 10:46 PM

Pitt touchdown called off

Pittsburgh quarterback Nick Patti ran for a touchdown, but it was called back due to a holding penalty. The Panthers couldn't recover from the pantry, and now Patti is down receiving attention after he was sacked on third down. Remember that Kedon Slovis is already down for the Panthers. So the Panthers settle for a field goal from Ben Sauls that narrowly trickles over the crossbar. Dartmouth transfer Derek Kyler appears to be taking warmup throws on the sideline as Pitt's QB3.

September 10, 2022, 10:39 PM

Headed to the fourth

After a scoreless third, we head to the fourth with Pittsburgh vying for the tie deep in Tennessee territory. The Panthers may come to rue their two missed field goals in the third quarter, but the Volunteers also had their share of missed opportunities. Penalties and a costly fumble in Pitt territory ruined Tennessee's chances of taking a two-possession lead as it seeks revenge on the Panthers for last season's loss in Knoxville.

September 10, 2022, 10:34 PM

Pitt misses opportunity

Ben Sauls misses his second field goal attempt of the third quarter as special teams both give and take away for the Panthers here. The offense just looks a bit out of sync with Kedon Slovis still out. So Tennessee gets the football back ahead 24-17 with neither team having scored yet in the quarter.

September 10, 2022, 10:18 PM

Huge swing

With Tennessee poised to pin Pittsburgh deep, the Panthers block a punt as P.J. O'Brien ignites the home crowd by coming around the edge to send the Brooks punt backwards. Pitt takes over in the red zone. Hendon Hooker had Cedric Tillman 1-on-1 down the right sideline on first-and-10, and the throw was on the money. But the coverage was just good enough to keep the would-be TD from happening. 

September 10, 2022, 10:15 PM

Offensive lull

By the standards of the first half, we've hit an offensive lull here to begin the third quarter. Nick Patti fires incomplete on third-and-long and Pitt has to punt from deep in its own territory after a three-and-out. Vols will take over just inside Pitt territory with a chance to add to their 24-17 lead.

September 10, 2022, 10:08 PM

Pitt's defense answers

Pittsburgh needed a stand from it defense, and the Panthers got one as Tennessee does nothing on its first possession of the second half. The Volunteers didn't help their cause with a costly offensive pass interference call that set up a second-and-31. Good punt from Paxton Brooks sets Pitt up inside its own 20 with Tennessee still leading 24-17 at the 8:34 mark of the third quarter.

September 10, 2022, 10:04 PM

Missed FG

Pittsburgh moves the football 47 yards on its first possession of the second half with Nick Patti at quarterback, but a Ben Sauls field goal attempt from 46 yards missed well wide to the left. Tennessee will take over at its own 36 leading 24-17 early in the third quarter. Chance for the Volunteers to take a two-possession lead here for the first time today.

September 10, 2022, 9:58 PM
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