Every time you think Paul Chryst and the Pitt Panthers football team is about to turn the corner, they give you reasons to believe they are far from doing so.
In a game that the Panthers need to win to get closer to becoming bowl eligible, Pitt was stunned by the Navy Midshipmen 24-21 on a last second 30-yard field goal by Nick Sloan.
After the Panthers took a 21-14 lead on a three-yard touchdown pass from Tom Savage to freshman Tyler Boyd with 8:55 remaining in the game, the Pitt defense couldn’t get off the field as the Midshipmen drove 71 yards on 10 plays, tying the game on a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Keenan Reynolds.
The Panthers got the ball back with 3:52 left, needing just a field goal for the win, but things turned disastrous for Pitt.
Quarterback Tom Savage was sacked on first down and got that yardage back with an 11-yard completion to Boyd on second down. But Savage didn’t have anyone open on third down and had to eat it again, prompting a punt by Matt Yoklic. The veteran punter shanked one though as his 20-yard punt gave the Midshipmen the ball at the Pitt 49.
Once again the Pitt defense couldn’t get a stop.
Navy ran their triple option exclusively over the next 11 plays, never breaking a big play, but gaining just enough yards to continue to move the chains.
That set up Sloan, who missed an extra point last week to cost Navy a possible win against Toldeo, in comfortable field goal position.
Pitt came out in the first quarter and ran the ball down Navy’s throat, but despite putting together a 16-play drive, the Panthers had to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Chris Blewitt.
Isaac Bennett, who had a career game last week against Old Dominion got off to a good start, carrying the ball nine times of the Panthers opening drive. However Pitt got away from the run as Bennett, who finished with 77 yards on 22 carries, only got five touches in the second half.
Navy took a 7-3 lead in the second quarter on a fluke play. Reynolds pass hit off his intended receiver and a Pitt defensive back before falling into the arms of Marcus Thomas, who raced 58 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.
Pitt followed with a nine-play, 51-yard drive, but again had to settle for a field goal to make it a 7-6 game.
The Panthers seemed to grab momentum on their next drive when Savage hit Devin Street with a 12-yard touchdown pass, capping a nine-play, 71-yard drive to make it a 13-7 game.
Pitt completely dominated the first half and held the edge in total plays, time of possession and yardage, but only managed 13 points, which ultimately proved to be costly,
Street finished the day with nine receptions for 96 yards and on his second catch of the game, became Pitt’s all-time leading receiver. Street now has 186 career receptions, surpassing Latef Grim, who had 178.
Things stayed that way until the fourth quarter when Navy put together an impressive 16-play, 91-yard drive that culminated with a nine-yard touchdown run from Quinton Singleton.
That drive pretty much broke the Panthers back as even though Pitt (4-3) came back to take a 21-7 lead, their defense couldn’t stop the Midshipmen in the fourth quarter.
Savage completed 20 of 27 pass attempts for 203 yards and two touchdowns.
But the story of the game was the gutsy performance from Navy’s Reynolds, who hurt his ankle late in the second quarter, but ended up rushing for 93 yards and throwing for 105.
Navy entered the game ranked sixth in the nation with 304.2 rushing yards per game, and managed 220 against the Panthers
The Midshipmen (4-3) snapped a two-game losing streak and need just two wins to become eligible for a bowl game.