PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple called on a play borrowed from the other side of the state to end the nation's longest winning streak and extend the Panthers' streak of years knocking off a ranked foe as an unranked team to four. Next, the Panthers will have to keep their focus when an accomplished FCS Delaware team comes to visit on Saturday in a game that brings back childhood memories for Narduzzi.
TV: 12:30 p.m. ET, AT&T SportsNet - Pittsburgh. LINE: Pittsburgh -28.
The Philadelphia Eagles used "Philly Special", a flea-flicker pass to quarterback Nick Foles at the goal line to help them win Super Bowl LII two years ago against the New England Patriots, and the Panthers rolled out "Pitt Special" that ended with quarterback Kenny Pickett catching a three-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Mathews with 59 seconds remaining that provided Pitt a 35-34 victory, snapping the Knights' 27-game regular-season winning streak. The Panthers have beaten No. 23 Virginia (23-13 in 2018), No. 2 Miami (24-14 in 2017) and No. 3 Clemson (43-42 in 2016) in each of the last three years, serving up the only loss of 2016 to the eventual national champion Tigers while knocking out unbeaten Miami from the FBS playoff in the final game of the 2017 regular season. "You know, we just keep plugging away. Again, top 15, doesn't matter," Narduzzi said. "I mean we can play with anybody if we execute and do the details, and we still made a lot of mistakes. We left a lot of plays out on the field. But it says a lot about what kind of character this football team does have." Delaware, which has won six national championships at the FCS/Division II level, rallied from a 14-point deficit to edge Penn 28-27 last week as sophomore Nolan Henderson threw for 260 yards and three TDs in his first career start.
ABOUT DELAWARE (3-1)
Henderson relieved starter Pat Kehoe (46-of-75 for 479 yards, seven TDs, four interceptions) during a 47-22 loss to FCS No. 1 North Dakota State two weeks, completed 9-of-12 passes for 125 yards and two TDs and was given the nod against the Quakers. He was 20-for-29 passing, connecting with Thyrick Pitts (17 receptions, 290 yards, two TDs) five times for 128 yards and a touchdown, including a 45-yard strike down the sideline that set up a 6-yard TD run by Will Knight with 7:36 to play for a 28-21 edge. Penn's Isaiah Malcome returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown with 2:24 left, but the Blue Hens' defense applied pressure and forced an errant throw on the two-point conversion to hold on for the victory and their No. 19 ranking in the FCS poll.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (2-2)
Pickett completed 25-of-47 passes for 224 yards against UCF after consecutive 300-yard performances against Ohio and Penn State, and increased his consecutive passes without an interception streak to 139. He has been helped by one of the most productive pass-catching tandems in the country in senior Maurice Ffrench (fourth nationally with 7.8 receptions per game) and junior Taysir Mack (15th with 6.8). Although the Knights finished with 423 yards, it was 181 below their season average entering the contest, and the Panthers sacked quarterback Dillon Gabriel six times to push their season total to 18 - a 4.5 per-game average that ranks fourth nationally.
1. Pitt and Delaware have met just once previously: a 62-0 season-opening win by the Panthers in 2014. The Panthers are 16-1 all-time against FCS opponents.
2. Narduzzi played against Delaware three times from 1985-89 during his playing career at Youngstown State and Rhode Island but remembers a time when he was 13 years old most. "I was a little ball boy against these guys back in 1979. (In) 1979, the only team we lost to at Youngstown State when my dad was head coach was Delaware (in the national championship game)."
3. Pitt DT Jaylen Twyman ranks fourth in FBS with 1.38 sacks per contest (5.5 total).
PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 35, Delaware 7