The much maligned Pitt defense took yet another beating yesterday as the Panthers fell 31-24 to the Northwestern Wildcats in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium (Bronx, NY). The Panthers surrendered nearly 500 yards of offense in the losing effort.
Normally, the thrashing would be through the air (Pitt is ranked next to last in the FBS in pass defense) but Northwestern was able to gash most of the yardage on the ground including 224 yards, 3 TDs on 32 carries from the game’s MVP Justin Jackson.
While the Pitt defense struggled mightily, the Pitt offense again looked potent but failed to convert numerous opportunities in the red zone that contributed to the loss.
After the Wildcats spotted the Panthers an early field goal, they were able to stop Pitt twice within the 5 yard line on its next series. On 3rd down, junior h-back George Aston slipped just before he could score and Pitt superstar junior tailback James Conner was stopped at the goal line on 4th down.
The Wildcats would claw their way out of their end zone and get a big play from Jackson on a 68 yard run up the middle. They were eventually able to reach pay dirt after Northwestern’s QB Clayton Thorson handed it off to Jackson who waltzed into the end zone from 8 yards out. Northwestern 7 Pitt 3.
Pitt would drive deep into Northwestern territory on its next series but turned the ball over inside the Wildcat 10 yard line. Fifth year senior QB Nathan Peterman (who played his last game at Pitt) hit Panther All-American special teamer and WR Quadree Henderson for 37 yards. This was followed up by 2 runs by Conner (who declared for the NFL draft next season and will not return to Pitt) for 21 yards and 3 yards that left Pitt at 2nd and 3 from the Wildcat 5 yard line.
After a false start penalty, Peterman’s pass was intercepted by Wildcat DB Godwin Igwebuike who returned it 12 yards to the Northwestern 15 yard line.
Northwestern would drive the length of the field on its ensuing drive but Thorson’s pass would be intercepted by Pitt junior cornerback Avonte Maddox in the end zone.
Pitt would punt the ball back to the Wildcats...
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