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Instant Replay: Clemson 42, Pittsburgh 43

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No. 2 Clemson fell to Pittsburgh 43-42 on Saturday in Death Valley. The Tigers dropped to 9-1 (6-1 ACC), while the Panthers improved to 6-4 (3-3). Here is a look back at what happened:

What happened?

It was a back-and-forth shootout from the start, as the two teams combined for 1,094 yards of offense and 12 touchdowns. Clemson took a one-point lead at the end of the first half and didn’t trail again until less than a minute remaining in the game.

With six seconds left on the clock, Pittsburgh kicker Chris Blewitt booted a game-winning 48-yard field goal. The kick capped a six-play, 34-yard drive that started at Pittsburgh’s 35-yard line with 58 seconds left.

Pittsburgh quarterback Nathan Peterman completed 22-of-37 passes for 308 yards and five touchdowns. Clemson had allowed only five passing touchdowns all season entering the game.

The loss marked Clemson’s first to an unranked opponent since N.C. State in 2011.

What went right?

It was a career day for several members of Clemson’s offense, which racked up 630 total yards and six touchdowns. Deshaun Watson completed a school-record 52 passes for an ACC-record 580 yards and threw three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Mike Williams caught a career-high 15 passes for a career-high 202 yards and a touchdown, Gallman had a career-high three touchdowns and Artavis Scott notched a career-high 13 receptions. Also, the offense went 12-of-18 on third down.

What went wrong?

 Clemson’s offense that rolled all game couldn’t finish off Pittsburgh. The Tigers had several chances to claim a two-score lead in the fourth quarter, but on three possessions with the ball in Pittsburgh territory in the fourth quarter, Clemson punted once, was intercepted at the goal line and was stopped on downs. Gallman was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 run with 1:02 remaining, and Pittsburgh took advantage, driving into field goal range for the winning kick.

Clemson’s defense that has been dominant for most of the season yielded 464 yards and a season-high 43 points. The Tigers were victimized by big plays all game, allowing eight plays of 20-plus yards, including three of 40-plus.

And good as Watson was, he made a couple of costly mistakes. Watson threw three interceptions, two of which occurred at the goal line. Overall, Pittsburgh scored 13 points off of Clemson’s three turnovers.

In addition, the Tigers were flagged for nine penalties for 101 yards.

Game-changing moment?

 Several big plays stood out among of a slew of them in this one.

The first occurred at the end of the first quarter. On fourth and goal from the 1-yard line, Wayne Gallman received a handoff, plowed ahead and appeared to fumble a ball that Pittsburgh returned 99 yards for what was initially ruled a touchdown. But upon official review, it was determined that Gallman crossed the goal line before the ball came out, and the Tigers were awarded the touchdown instead. Gallman’s touchdown tied the score at 14-14, whereas a fumble returned for a touchdown by Pittsburgh would have made the score 21-7 in the Panthers’ favor.

Then, Clelin Ferrell and Clemson’s defense came up with a critical late stop at the goal line late in the game. Following an interception by Watson at Pittsburgh’s goal line that was returned 70 yards to Clemson’s 30, the Panthers put the ball in the end zone three plays later to cut their deficit to two points. However, on the ensuing two-point try, Ferrell fought his way to the quarterback and disrupted Peterman’s pass to preserve Clemson’s lead.

But, in the end, it was the Tigers’ inability to convert on a fourth down and 1 with about one minute left that doomed them. Gallman was stopped short of the sticks on a toss play to the left side, and after Pittsburgh drove six plays and 34 yards to Clemson’s 30-yard line with 12 seconds left, Blewitt’s leg sent Pittsburgh to victory.

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