Pittsburgh entered Thursday night's game against Eastern Michigan as a double-digit favorite, but it needed every bit of four quarters to escape Detroit with a 34-30 win in the Quick Lane Bowl.
The victory was Pat Narduzzi's first bowl win in five years as a head coach after losses in the Panthers' previous three appearances, and it came after watching Eastern Michigan jump out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead. Ford Field had a record attendance for the Quick Lane Bowl thanks to the proximities of both schools, and those fans in attendance in support of the Eagles were bursting at the seams after the start to the game.
Pitt finally started to reverse the course of the contest in the second quarter, when Kenny Pickett connected with Maurice Ffrench on a 96-yard catch-and-run touchdown that not only tied the game at 10 but set a school record for the longest pass play in school history.
Pickett would go on to total 361 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score, on 27-for-39 passing with zero interceptions. Ffrench also made a significant mark on the Pitt record books in the contest, as his 12 catches (totaling 165 yards and a score) broke Larry Fitzgerald's school record for single-season receptions.
That touchdown was part of a 17-point second quarter that brought Pitt back into the contest and escalated the game into a back-and-forth affair. While the Panthers had the final strike with a go-ahead touchdown pass from Pickett, Eastern Michigan made some headlines of the wrong kind when quarterback Mike Glass started taking swings at opposing defenders and inadvertently struck an official in the process.
For Eastern Michigan the unceremonious finish is disappointing given the start to the game and how well the Eagles competed with a Power Five opponent over four quarters, but violence against the opponent and/or an official will take precedent when outsiders take a look at Thursday evening's events. Glass threw for 311 yards, ran for 83 more and scored three total touchdowns but it's this last action that will end up making its way to the top the headlines for Eastern Michigan's efforts at the program's first bowl win since 1987.