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Pitt Rushes Past Duke 24-17

As Duke drops 4th straight game

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Pittsburgh v Duke
DURHAM, NC - OCTOBER 21: Damar Hamlin #3 of the Pittsburgh Panthers tries to stop T.J. Rahming #3 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Wallace Wade Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Pittsburgh continued its recent mastery of Duke with a 24-17 win Saturday afternoon, a game full of explosive plays, some officiating controversies and enough mistakes to stock a mistake-start-up.

But you don’t get style points and an ugly win counts just the same.

As do ugly losses. And Duke’s loss is their fourth straight, after a 4-0 start, a once-promising season spiraling down the tubes.

For the third consecutive week, Duke got the ball late, down by seven. For the third straight week, Duke drove deep into the other team’s territory. For the third straight week, Duke came up empty, this time an interception on a pass that could have been caught sealing Duke’s fate.

It certainly looked like a great chance to end the losing streak. Pitt came into the game at 2-5, having allowed an average of just under 40 points per game in five games against Power-5 opponents.

Duke scored all of three points in the opening half and was fortunate to be down only 7-3 at intermission.

Duke was called for an illegal wedge on the game’s opening kickoff, which should have told us something.

Pitt drew first blood, Darrin Hall going 79 yards up the middle in the middle of the opening quarter.

This is the same Darrin Hall who came into the game with 111 rushing yards and a 3.5 yards-per-carry average.

Duke had a chance to draw even, driving to a first-and-goal from the six as the second quarter began. Three plays netted four yards.

Duke decided to go for it. Pitt called timeout, after which Duke was called for delay of game and kicked the field goal.

David Cutcliffe said the officials did not notify Duke that the play clock had started.

He was not happy.

“He started the clock and said he warned us. But I didn’t hear a warning. I was totally irritated by it. They {Pitt} called the timeout. Let us know.”

The Duke defense kept the Blue Devils alive during the first half, stopping the visitors cold after Jones lost a fumble at the Duke 37 in the first period and forcing a missed field goal after a 9:45 drive in the second.

Duke controlled most of the third quarter, finally hitting some explosives, two of them, a 58-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Shaun Wilson, a 39-yard scoring pass from Jones to T.J. Rahming, each drive lasting less than a minute.

Duke was up 17-7 and seemingly had the visitors on the ropes, when Marquis Waters tackled Quadree Henderson on the Pitt eight on the ensuing kickoff.

The 10-point lead lasted all of 13 seconds, the amount of time it took Hall to go 92 yards, barely bothered by the Duke defense.

Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris tried to explain the two long runs.

“Just missed assignments. Loss of focus. Very frustrating. We practice that every day and it’s not something we want to have happen. They both hurt.”

“Two different runs, two different things,” Cutcliffe added. “My gut tells me when it happens like that, there are multiple reasons, not A reason.”

Wilson returned the kickoff 49 yards to the Pitt 44 but Duke did nothing with the opportunity.

But Parker kicked it out-of-bounds at the Pitt 5, giving the Duke defense another opportunity to squeeze the Pitt offense.

But the Duke defense was on the field for almost 12 minutes in the second quarter and over 10 minutes in the third. It was hot and Pitt is known for their physicality; their best offensive lineman, Alex Officer, goes 340.

A couple of runs got them out of the hole and a 25-yard pass got them even further upfield.

Then came the biggest play of the game. Ben DiNucci tried to hit Jester Weah downfield.

The replays seemed to show Duke’s Mark Gilbert with the interception, with Weah trying to wrestle it away after the two hit the ground.

But the call was simultaneous possession.

David Cutcliffe called timeout to argue the call, a judgment call not subject to review.

“I didn’t think it was simultaneous possession,” he said. “I wanted to know who called it simultaneous, because that’s non-reviewable. . . . I still don’t have an answer as to who called it simultaneous but the Jumbotron didn’t look simultaneous. It looked as if Mark Gilbert caught the ball and it was wrestled to a tie, if you will. But Mark caught the ball.”

The pass netted 49 yards to the Duke 11.

The Panthers scored two plays later, culminating a 95-yard drive.

Duke had two more possessions and moved the ball both times. But Austin Parker was wide right on a 36-yarder, with eight minutes left.

Pitt took over on their 20 and moved the ball into Duke territory, converting a big 3rd-and-six and burning more than six valuable minutes before extending the lead to seven with a field goal

Four completions and a pass interference moved the ball to the Pitt 22. But a slightly high pass skipped off Daniel Helm’s hands and was intercepted by Jordan Whitehead at the eight.


David Cutcliffe’s post-game press conference barely lasted six minutes, shorter than some Pittsburgh drives.

He made no attempt to hide his feelings.

“When you lose by a touchdown three weeks in a row, you’re not a very well-coached football team. Tomorrow is a new day. What I expect to see if a bunch of guys not consumed with self-pity. . . .

I know things have to continue to be done. . . . I don’t get frustrated, I get mad. I’m angry. Being frustrated gets nothing accomplished. . . . Well-coached football teams don’t do the things that you’re asking about. I take full responsibility for that. We’re not a high-performing football team. They need more from me. They’ll be getting a whole lot of me.”


Pitt’s kicking team drew Duke off-sides three times, the final one turning a 50-yard field-goal attempt into a 45-yarder.

Cutcliffe said that slight head and/or ball movement on kicks is a “ploy as old as football,” one that well-coached teams don’t fall for.

Even weirder, Pitt was penalized on a punt when long snapper Cal Admotis somehow managed to play a play without a helmet.

T.J. Rahming had a 19-yard punt return on that play, Duke’s longest of the season.

Rahming had eight catches, for 142 yards.

The rest of the team had eight catches, for 139 yards. And 75 of those receiving yards came from running back Wilson.

Hall’s 92-yard run was the longest in Pitt history, breaking the old record of 91 by George McClaren, exactly 100 years and a day ago, against Syracuse.

Hall ended the game with 254 yards on 24 carries.

His two long runs were the eighth and ninth touchdowns of 40 or more yards allowed by the Duke defense this season; the offense also gave up a long pick-six.

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