Clemson fell to No. 23 Pittsburgh, 27-17, on Saturday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
The Tigers dropped to 4-3 (3-2 ACC), while the Panthers improved to 6-1 (3-0).
Clemson struck first with 1:29 left in the first quarter when freshman running back Phil Mafah punched the ball into the end zone from 1 yard out. His first career touchdown capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive, which was keyed by a pretty 36-yard throw from D.J. Uiagalelei to Ajou Ajou down the sideline on third-and-6.
Pittsburgh answered with a 13-play, 90-yard touchdown march toward the end of the first half. Kenny Pickett rolled to his right and delivered a strike in the back of the end zone to Jordan Addison, who beat Nolan Turner for a 23-yard touchdown reception at the 3:18 mark of the second quarter.
The Panthers then took a 14-7 lead on their next possession. On fourth-and-5 from the Clemson 39-yard line, Pickett hooked up with Taysir Mack for a 39-yard touchdown with 40 seconds left before halftime to conclude a nine-play, 76-yard drive. Mack beat Clemson freshman linebacker Barrett Carter at the beginning of the route, and with no safety help over the top, Mack ran wide open up the seam and hauled in the pass from Pickett for the score.
After Pitt took a seven-point lead into the locker room at halftime thanks to the aforementioned touchdown, the Panthers tacked on to their lead on the first possession of the second half for either team. SirVocea Dennis intercepted a shovel pass from Uiagalelei and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown to make the score 21-7 less than four minutes into the third quarter.
Uiagalelei was replaced by redshirt sophomore quarterback Taisun Phommachanh following the pick-six, Uiagalelei’s second interception of the game. But the Tigers were still unable to get much going offensively in Phommachanh’s two drives.
So, Uiagalelei re-entered the game on Clemson’s first possession of the fourth quarter and led a touchdown drive, capping it with a 6-yard rushing score to cut the Tigers’ deficit to 27-17 with 7:56 left in the game.
Pittsburgh subsequently got the ball back and proceeded to run out the clock. Three kneel-downs by Pickett finished off a 15-play possession and ended the game.
Pickett finished 25-of-39 passing for 302 yards and two touchdowns, guiding the Panthers to 464 yards of total offense.
Meanwhile, Uiagalelei completed 12-of-25 passes for 128 yards and two interceptions with the rushing touchdown, while Phommachanh went 3-of-7 for 23 yards.
Down 14-7 at halftime, Clemson received the opening kickoff of the second half and had a chance to tie the game with a touchdown. Instead, Pittsburgh came up with a game-changing pick-six.
A shovel pass from Uiagalelei was intercepted by Dennis, who came up the middle on a blitz and ran right into the path of Uiagalelei’s pass before taking it 50 yards to the house to give the Panthers a 21-7 lead at the 11:30 mark of the third quarter.
Pittsburgh never looked back and did what it had to do in order to close out the victory.
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