If you can say one thing about Pitt as a program it's this: The Panthers routinely seem to come out of nowhere and upset one highly ranked program almost every season. Saturday's victim was No. 15 UCF, a 10-point favorite entering the game, as Pitt pulled off an improbable 35-34 victory thanks to a play that may look familiar to Pennsylvania sports fans.
Pitt secured the win on a go-ahead touchdown pass on fourth down in the final minute of the game near the UCF goal line. Coach Pat Narduzzi, who just this last week took loads of criticism for how he handled the fourth quarter in a 17-10 loss to Penn State, drew up his version of the "Philly Special" coming out of a timeout. After the game, Narduzzi called it the "Pitt Special." The result was an Aaron Mathews pass complete to Kenny Pickett for a 3-yard touchdown.
PITT USING TRICKERATION TO TAKE DOWN PERFECTION????? pic.twitter.com/K610czabBM— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) September 21, 2019
It's not the most original trick play anymore given that most teams run it now, but still, few defenses have shown the ability to stop it. It ended up being the perfect call against the Knights. It was the perfect topper to one of the strangest games in Week 4. The Panthers jumped out to a stunning 21-0 lead in the second quarter only to slowly watch UCF chip away at that lead. Next thing anyone knew, UCF had scored 31 unanswered points to take a 31-21 lead.
Still, Pitt hung around by keeping the score within a touchdown for the fourth quarter. Credit Narduzzi for having a good defensive game plan by confusing UCF freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel early and then forcing key fourth-quarter stops. The Knights had four possessions in the final 15 minutes and came away with only three points. The most pivotal stop came on a fourth-and-2 from the Pitt 15-yard line when the Panthers stuffed Knights running back Greg McCrae.
This was also one of UCF's sloppier games in a while. On top of getting off to a slow start, they went just 4-of-16 on third downs and committed seven penalties for 74 yards, including some costly, drive-extending personal fouls. Pitt may not be a great team, but they get up for these types of games and that's a surefire way to lose on the road.
Indeed, the loss snaps a 27-game non-bowl winning streak for the Knights, the longest active streak in the FBS.