NCAA

Penn State escapes with 17-10 win over Pitt in 100th meeting

seanclifford_usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Iamges

Penn State escapes with 17-10 win over Pitt in 100th meeting

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi joked before the 100th meeting between the Panthers and 13th-ranked Penn State that the next time the rivals face off, he'll either be retired or "in a coffin."

That's a long time to live with some curious decision-making that helped the Nittany Lions escape with a 17-10 win.

Pitt opted to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal at the Penn State 1 trailing by a touchdown with less than 4 minutes to go. Alex Kessman's 19-yard attempt clanked off the upright and the Nittany Lion defense later turned away Pitt's last-ditch possession to win their third straight in the series since it was renewed in 2016.

Journey Brown ran for 109 yards and a touchdown for Penn State (3-0) and Noah Cain's 13-yard third-quarter sprint to the end zone gave Penn State the lead for good. Sean Clifford completed 14 of 30 passes for 222 yards while spending most of the afternoon under heavy duress.

Pitt's Kenny Pickett threw for a career-high 372 yards, but Penn State held firm when it mattered. The Panthers had first-and-goal at the Penn State 1 midway through the fourth quarter. Two passes and a run went nowhere, and Narduzzi opted to kick, despite trailing by seven.

Kessman's miss allowed the Nittany Lions to bleed the clock a bit. Pitt drove from its 16 to the Penn State 26 in the final seconds, but Pickett's 51st and final pass attempt smacked off a sea of hands in the end zone and fell incomplete to let Penn State improve to 53-43-4 in the series.

A rivalry that dates back to 1893 is going on indefinite hiatus. The uncertain future provided a sense of finality, one Narduzzi didn't run from. He stressed to his players the outcome will give the winner bragging rights for years and possibly forever.

While Pitt fought gamely -- overcoming a slow start following a 30-minute weather delay to take a 10-7 lead -- the Panthers allowed Penn State to get into a rhythm late in the first half. Jordan Stout's school-record 57-yard field goal tied it at 10 going into the break.

Using the no huddle to help slow the Panther defense, Clifford led Penn State 88 yards in 13 plays, the last Cain's burst up the middle that put Penn State in front to stay.

Barely.

THE TAKEAWAY

Pitt: Five seasons into his tenure, the swaggering, aggressive defensive style Narduzzi cultivated during his long run as an assistant at Michigan State has finally become a part of the culture at Pitt. The secondary may be the best in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the defensive line looks capable even with starters Rashad Weaver and Keyshon Camp both done for the season with knee injuries.

Penn State: Things didn't come quite so easily for the Nittany Lions after a pair of blowouts to open the season. Yet Clifford proved his toughness while taking a pounding and -- just as importantly -- took care of the ball.

UP NEXT

Pitt: Welcomes No. 17 UCF to Heinz Field next Saturday. The Golden Knights drilled the Panthers 45-14 last year in Orlando.

Penn State: Off next week then opens Big Ten play by traveling to Maryland on Friday, Sept. 27. The Nittany Lions have beaten the Terrapins by a combined 104-6.

MORE NCAA NEWS:

Virginia star cornerback Bryce Hall out for the season after ankle surgery

hall-uva-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Virginia star cornerback Bryce Hall out for the season after ankle surgery

Virginia’s hopes for a Coastal Division title took a blow on Friday in a loss to Miami. Those hopes took another significant blow on Monday.

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters on Monday that star cornerback Bryce Hall is expected to miss the remainder of the season after undergoing ankle surgery.

The injury happened while he was blocking on a punt in Friday’s game. The injury appeared significant at the time as Hall had to be carted off the field with his ankle in an air cast.

“We expect a good recovery, he sustained a left ankle injury and had surgery Monday,” Mendenhall said. “We do not expect him back this season.”

Hall is the star of Virginia’s defense which ranks 11th in the nation in total defense and second in the conference behind only Clemson. Hall has 20 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack and four passes broken up.

This news is particularly devastating for Hall considering he is a first-round NFL talent and elected to forgo the NFL draft for a year to play his senior season. This injury now ends Hall’s college career.

Virginia ranks 11th in the nation in total defense and 23rd in pass defense allowing just 183.7 yards through the air per game. Without Hall, that number is going to take a hit.

The Cavaliers still have five ACC games left on the schedule, including four within the division.

MORE NCAA NEWS:

The 6 craziest things that happened in Week 7 of the college football season

usatsi_13502849.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

The 6 craziest things that happened in Week 7 of the college football season

Four teams dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten, Louisville's coaching staff is way too intense, everyone from the state of Michigan is an embarrassment and yeah, Oklahoma and Texas still don't like each other.

Here are the six craziest things that happened in Week 6.

Unbeatens beware

Four undefeated teams suffered their first losses of the season this week as the College Football Playoff Grim Reaper began to rear his ugly head.

The most significant loss was that of Georgia at home to division rival South Carolina and it became evident at the end of the game that neither team wanted to win. I mean, why else would Will Muschamp call for a 57-yard field goal attempt in a tie game with 40 seconds left on the clock and with Georgia having all their timeous left? Why else would Georgia take itself out of field goal range with an illegal shift right before the end of regulation? The Gamecocks had a chance to win after recovering a fumble on the first overtime, but a botched field goal kept the game alive. South Carolina would kick a field goal in the second overtime and a missed field goal by Georgia would give the Gamecocks the win.

Florida also dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten, but that game was going to knock someone off as both the Gators and LSU were undefeated heading into Death Valley on Saturday.

Temple handed Memphis its first loss of the season in an afternoon tilt on Saturday and Wake Forest was also upset at the hands of Louisville who marched into the Demon Deacons’ home field and put up 62 points.

On a related note, the Orange Bowl has to be rooting so hard for Clemson to not make the playoff this year, or the ACC is going to send a mediocre team into one of the best bowl games in the country.

Only 12 undefeated teams remain at the FBS level after this week's action.

Louisville’s defensive line coach needs to chill

Mark Ivey is the defensive line coach at Louisville. To say he is intense would be putting it mildly.

The commentators laugh at how “fired up” the coaches are, but there are several moments in there where it is hard to tell if they are just super pumped or if people players are trying break up a legitimate fight.

Maybe trying to relive the glory days of your playing career during warmups is a bad idea.

Every player from both Oklahoma and Texas was given an unsportsmanlike penalty during the pregame

Oklahoma and Texas is one of the most storied rivalries in college football, even if we have no idea what it’s supposed to be called anymore. The Red River Shootout? The Red River Rivalry? The Red River Hootenanny? The Red River Hullabaloo?

Tensions were high for this game which led to a scuffle during pregame.

More than one.

Realizing that they were losing control of the game before it even started, the referees assessed every player on both teams an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Fun fact, in college football a player is ejected after their second unsportsmanlike penalty in a game so every player was one flag away from getting the boot.

In the end, only one player was ejected and that was for targeting. No one else received a second unsportsmanlike penalty and Oklahoma went on to beat Texas 34-27.

This season could not get any more embarrassing for Michigan

Jim Harbaugh: “Hold my beer.”

The Wolverines won on the road at Illinois on Saturday by a comfortable-looking margin of 42-25. That score, however, does not reflect the nearly epic collapse Michigan faced in the second half.

Jim Harbaugh and Co. jumped out to a 28-0 lead on the Illini before Illinois could even get on the board. Illinois, led by a backup quarterback, managed to score the next 25 points, trimming the lead down to just three early in the fourth quarter. From there, seeing their season was about to collapse in such an epic way woke Michigan back up. The Wolverines went on to add two extra touchdowns to their score while Illinois was shutout the remainder of the game.

Michigan’s quest to prove why they do not deserve to be a ranked team continues next week at Happy Valley where the Wolverines will take on Penn State.

Mark Dantonio answers a “dumbass” question with a dumbass answer

Speaking of disappointing football teams in the state of Michigan, let’s now move on to Michigan State. The Spartans stink on offense as was evident in their 38-0 loss to Wisconsin. In three losses this season, Michigan State has a combined 17 points. That’s bad. What’s worse is the fact that they were bad on offense last year as well, but virtually nothing was done to improve the offense as head coach Mark Dantonio returned the entire offensive coaching staff, but with changed titles and duties.

So now after a humiliating blowout loss in which the offense was made to look as inept as ever, it is fair to wonder if perhaps not making any changes on offense was a mistake. At least most people would think it was fair.

When head coach Mark Dantonio was asked whether his decision on the offensive staff in the offseason was a mistake, here was his response:

Dantonio is absolutely right. That is a “dumbass” question because we all know the answer is yes, it was a mistake, it is going to cost Michigant State its season and not doing anything about it makes him look bad. But go ahead, keep turning your frustrations on the media. That ought to help the offense.

Tennessee becomes the last Power 5 team to earn an FBS win

If you had to guess who the last Power 5 team to earn an FBS win this season was, who would you guess? Kansas? Oregon State? Illinois? One of the other perennial cellar-dwellers?

Nope, you’re all wrong. The answer is Tennessee.

The Volunteers actually won a game against a team with a pulse on Saturday, earning the ugly 20-10 win over Mississippi State. It still counts though proving that there really is no such thing as an ugly win, just an ugly season.

Tennesse improved its record to an impressive 2-4, a fact that right now is prompting every football fan in the south to stand up and spontaneously chant “S-E-C! S-E-C!”

Prior to Saturday, Tennessee’s only win of the season was against FCS Chattanooga. Yes, the Volunteers have losses to Florida and Georgia, both impressive teams. They also have losses against Georgia State and BYU so no, Tennessee is not simply a victim of the brutal SEC schedule.