NCAA FOOTBALL: NAVY 24, PITT 21 -- Panthers lose on late field goal
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst thought his team did a solid job most of the game containing Navy and its high-powered rushing attack.
The Panthers, however, appeared to tire in the fourth quarter and allowed the Midshipmen to put together a late rally. A 30-yard field-goal by Nick Sloan as time expired gave Navy a 24-21 victory. The Panthers allowed 17 points in the fourth quarter after dominating most of the game.
“In a 60-minute game, they found a way to win,” Chryst said. “I thought our guys’ effort was nothing short of what I expected. Obviously, we did not make enough plays to win the game.”
Tom Savage completed 20 of 27 pass attempts for 203 yards and two touchdowns for Pitt (4-3).
Pittsburgh’s Devin Street caught nine passes for 96 yards with a touchdown and became the school’s all-time leading receiver. Street now has 186 career receptions, surpassing Latef Grim, who had 178 from 1998-2000.
With Pitt trailing 14-13 midway through the fourth quarter, Savage threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to freshman Tyler Boyd to give the Panthers a 20-14 lead. Street then caught a short pass for the 2-point conversion.
Navy responded on the ensuing possession and tied the game on a 10-play, 71-yard drive capped by a 2-yard run by quarterback Keenan Reynolds with 3:53 left in the game.
The Midshipmen (4-3) snapped a two-game losing streak and need two more wins to become eligible for a bowl game.
Navy finally got into a rhythm in the second half and put together its most impressive drive of the game to take a 14-13 lead with 14:28 left in the game.
Reserve fullback Quinton Singleton’s 9-yard scoring run capped the 16-play, 91-yard scoring drive that took 8:15 off the clock. The teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter before Sloan kicked the game-winner.
“It’s every kicker’s dream to be in this situation,” Sloan said. “It’s definitely what separates the good kickers from the bad kickers. I just thought of it as just another kick. That’s all I can do.”
“Pittsburgh is a good football team,” Reynolds said. “They are a big, BCS team. This is a good win for our program.”
After tying the game at 21 with under four minutes to play, the Midshipmen then forced a three-and-out on the Panthers’ next possession and got the ball at Pitt’s 49. Navy ran 11 plays to set up Sloan’s game-winning kick.
Pitt took a 3-0 lead after its opening drive on a 25-yard field goal by Chris Blewitt, capping a 16-play, 68 yard drive that took 7:32 off the clock. After Don Pearson recovered a fumble by Pittsburgh’s James Conner to open the second quarter, Navy took the lead on a pass from Reynolds that deflected off Geoffrey Whiteside and was caught by senior Marcus Thomas, who ran 58 yards for his first career touchdown.
Another 44-yard field goal by Blewitt pulled Pitt to within 7-6 with 9:23 left in the opening half. The Panthers then took a 13-7 lead with less than two minutes to play in the half on a 12-yard pass from Tom Savage to Street.
The Panthers largely dominated the first half, holding an edge in total plays (44-22), time of possession (22:07-7:53) and yardage (252-135).
“We did a good job containing them in the first half,” Chryst said. “However, Navy’s field position changed in the second half and gave them a shorter distance to the end zone. We did not do a good enough job to change the field position.”
Navy entered the game ranked sixth in the nation with 304.2 rushing yards per game, and managed 220 against the Panthers.
“I wish these games weren’t like this, but we’ll take it,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “I’m super-happy for Nick Sloan. The guy took a beating last week. He’s the guy who took the blame last week. It wasn’t his fault. We lost as a team and today we won as a team.”