Things were bad, and then things were good, but then they ended badly. UNC rallied all the way back to tie Pitt in the fourth quarter before getting absolutely nothing in the pouring rain in overtime.
This is where I am contractually obligated to point out that the Tar Heels would have left Heinz Field with a win if there wasn’t a rather inexplicable decision to go for two after a touchdown made it a ten-point game in the third quarter. Does being down eight instead of nine really matter? Well, in this case it did, but badly.
The Carolina defense did a great job to hold Pitt scoreless in the second half. The Panthers controlled every bit of the first half, leading 23-7 at the half. The effectiveness by the defense allowed the offense to come to life and make a ballgame out of it. Unfortunately, the effort came up just short.
It wasn’t without chances, though. Particularly, UNC had the ball down three with first down on the Pitt three-yard line before the offense sputtered to a halt and Grayson Atkins had to kick an awkward field goal in a downpour in order to tie things up. Chances like that mean so much in a game this close, and the Heels were so close to getting out of there with a win multiple times.
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett was a force to be reckoned with on his way to three touchdowns and 346 yards. He did throw a crucial pick late that gave UNC life. He did enough, particularly in overtime when the weather really deteriorated, to help his team to a win and keep the Panthers in the driver’s seat in the Coastal division.
With Josh Downs mostly held in check by Pitt, at least so far as 98 yards is being held in check, Antoine Green was the beneficiary with two touchdowns and 108 yards. Carolina’s ground game was non-existent with Ty Chandler amassing just 42 yards and Sam Howell running for 28 and a touchdown.
One of the more brutal experiences of the game was that the offensive line allowed Howell to be sacked five times in the first half. They cleaned that up and allowed no sacks in the second half, but Howell really took a beating. Another point of frustration was another game of undisciplined play that led to 12 penalties for a total of 105 yards. It’s hard to make up for that when playing a game as talented as Pitt is, and even though UNC almost managed to get away with it, every little thing counts when it’s close and the Heels just didn’t do enough of the little things right in order to come away with the win.
The loss marked the eighth game in a row where Carolina alternated their result, which is both utterly meaningless as a statistic and completely frustrating at the same time. The loss also eliminated UNC from any faint hopes of winning the division.
UNC will have a few extra days to prepare for their final home game of the season when they welcome Wofford to Kenan Stadium next Saturday.