I was watching Saturday’s Pitt-North Carolina game for a while, because I live in Pittsburgh and enjoy keeping tabs on the hometown team. Around 6:30 p.m. ET, Pitt had 36-23 fourth-quarter lead, and I started watching other college football games. Gotta watch the ones that are actually close, you know?
Right around 7 p.m., I changed the channel back to this game. And Pitt was giving up a game-losing touchdown and PAT with four seconds left.
Mitch Trubisky’s 2-yard connection with Bug Howard made it 36-36. Nick Weiler’s extra point put the Heels ahead for good, and for the first time in 59:56 of game time. Pitt's secondary was pretty bad all day, so it shouldn't have been surprising that Pitt lost on a fade route in a one-on-one with a good receiver. And yet, it was kind of surprising. It really should not have been.
A general rule about Pitt football for the few decades I’ve been alive is that Pitt football does not win games you didn’t initially expect Pitt football to win. Pitt football was playing a talented opponent on the road. Ergo, Pitt football was probably going to lose. This happened just last week!
It is somewhat remarkable that Pitt did not win this particular football game, though.
Pitt had the ball for 41 minutes. North Carolina had it for 19 minutes. In the first quarter, Pitt had the ball for 14:27 out of 15 minutes. That’s obscene!
Pitt had a 13-point lead with 324 seconds left. It had a running game that was already well on its way to 281 yards for the day. Pitt then proceeded to give up .04 points, on average, in each of those last 324 seconds. Howard caught two 2-yard touchdowns. Pitt ran three plays and gained two yards. After having the ball for about 39 of the first 55 minutes of the game, Pitt declined to have it for two of the last five.
Pitt somehow managed to give up 149 pass yards and get zero in the fourth quarter. That’s a pace of 596-0 over a full game. That is a hell of a thing. (North Carolina’s passing game was good all day, but 149-0 is 149-0, I figure.)
Pitt’s lateral play on the game-ending kickoff, after UNC’s winning touchdown, actually had some promise.
And then it stopped having that degree of promise, because a bunch of North Carolina coverage men converged on the runner and threw him out of bounds. These things can only happen once per calendar year in any given U.S. state, or something. Pitt is kind of fun this year, but Pitt can't run away from its own shadow.