Struggling Panthers roar back with upset win over No. 14 Louisville
Teetering on the brink of total irrelevancy and facing an undefeated Louisville squad that beat a top-10 Notre Dame program a week earlier, the 1-4 Panthers awoke from their hibernation just in time for an upset of their own at soggy Acrisure Stadium on Saturday night.
Sophomore quarterback Christian Veilleux, making his first-career start in place of an unimpressive Phil Jurkovec, completed 12 of 26 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns, as Pitt put on a dominant second-half performance to run away with a 38-21 win.
It wasn’t exactly an impressive showing for the transfer from Penn State, but Veilleux hit on a few big plays and didn’t turn the football over.
Pitt spent most of the first half on the ropes, trying to absorb body blows from a Cardinals’ squad that looked like it would run away with things early.
Louisville’s opening possession of the game resulted in a five-play, 40-yard drive that ended in a score when quarterback Jack Plummer found receiver Chris Bell for a seven-yard touchdown to give the visitors a 7-0 advantage.
The Panthers answered late in the first quarter when Veilleux connected with receiver Bub Means on a 46-yard touchdown pass to knot the score at seven.
The Cardinals counterpunched on their very next possession by driving 75 yards on 10 plays and reclaiming their seven-point advantage on a five-yard touchdown run by Isaac Guerendo early in the second period.
Louisville again drove deep into Panthers’ territory on its very next possession and was on the brink of extending its lead to two scores. But defensive lineman Samuel Okunlola sacked Plummer and forced a fumble that he also recovered at the Pitt 29-yard line.
The Panthers took advantage and drove 71 yards on 10 plays and tied the score on a one-yard touchdown run by running back C’Bo Flemister late in the second quarter.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals immediately drove 75 yards in only 58 seconds and took a 21-14 lead just before halftime.
As I said, Pitt spent the majority of the first half on the ropes, and another blowout loss seemed imminent.
Then, the second half started, and everything changed. Suddenly, the Panthers team everyone watched the previous two years–the one that won a combined 20 games and the 2021 ACC Championship–showed up and dominated.
The Panthers opened the third quarter with a field goal and a three-yard touchdown run by Flemister on their first two possessions to take a 24-21 lead.
Louisville did what it had been doing all game long and marched right down the field and had a first and 10 at the Pitt 20 late in the third period. But cornerback M.J. Devonshire made the play of the night when he intercepted Plummer’s second-down pass and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-21.
The Cardinals next possession also ended in an interception.
Louisville tried to pull to within a touchdown midway through the final quarter, but kicker Brock Travelstead missed on a 47-yard field goal attempt.
Pitt put the final nail in the coffin late in the fourth quarter when Veilleux found receiver Konota Mumpfield for a 31-yard touchdown on fourth and five.
It was the Panthers’ first win over an FBS school this season.
Next up, is a road matchup vs. a Wake Forest team that is 3-3 overall and 0-3 in the ACC.
It’s probably Pitt’s last chance to salvage its 2023 campaign, especially if it eventually wants to become bowl-eligible.