Pitt, Boston College look to rebound from first losses

With a favorable break or two, the Pittsburgh Panthers and Boston College Eagles could have been meeting this weekend as ranked teams. Instead both came up short in close home losses a week ago and are now looking for rebound wins.

The former Big East rivals will meet for the third time as Atlantic Coast Conference opponents Saturday afternoon in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Ranked No. 24 last week, the Panthers (3-1, 2-1) saw quarterback Kenny Pickett put on a career performance, but Pitt uncharacteristically caved on defense — head coach Pat Narduzzi’s forte — as North Carolina State quarterback Devin Leary drove the visitors 79 yards in eight plays and threw a touchdown pass with 23 seconds left in a shocking 30-29 Wolfpack win.

Leary passed for 336 yards and four touchdowns in his first start this season, and his late-game heroics prevented Pitt from starting 4-0 for the first time since 2000.

The Wolfpack generated 398 total yards against Narduzzi’s squad, which entered the game with the nation’s top defense, and were particularly good converting in high-leverage situations — NC State was 7-for-16 on third down and 2-for-2 on fourth down.

“I think Devin Leary, number one,” Narduzzi said of Pitt’s biggest problem. “The guy pulling the trigger obviously had a good game today, and he made the right decisions. He got the ball out pretty quick. We couldn’t get as much pressure as we’d like.”

Pickett posted his seventh career 300-yard passing game by going 22 of 39 for a career-best 411 yards and a touchdown (he also ran for two) as Pitt amassed 503 total yards. But the Wolfpack broke a seven-game losing streak against ranked teams with the last-minute drive.

Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec tossed a 6-yard TD pass to CJ Lewis with 45 seconds left to bring the Eagles (2-1, 1-1) to within 24-22 against 12th-ranked North Carolina, but his two-point pass attempt was intercepted and returned for two points by UNC’s Trey Morrison.

A Pittsburgh native and transfer from Notre Dame, the sophomore Jurkovec went 37-for-56 for 313 yards and two touchdowns, but the home side rushed for just 40 yards on 19 attempts.

First-year head coach Jeff Hafley’s squad wasted numerous opportunities. They didn’t turn the ball over but did get called for 12 penalties spanning 110 yards and dropped multiple passes in the red zone.

“(Our guys) expected to win it in the fourth quarter,” Hafley said. “We missed some opportunities — to go up, stop them on third down and in explosive plays. If we do our job at a higher level, we win that football game.”

The Panthers hold a 17-14 edge in a series that dates back to 1959, but Boston College was able to break a four-game losing skid in the series last Thanksgiving weekend in the Steel City.

In that game, the Eagles’ ground game with running back AJ Dillon wore down Pittsburgh toward the end of the teams’ first meeting in five years in a 26-19 victory that wasn’t enough to guarantee an eighth season for former BC head coach Steve Addazio.

The Panthers won the only other ACC meeting between the teams in a 30-20 road victory over the Eagles in 2014.

–Field Level Media

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