Out of a bye week for both squads, Florida State couldn’t block Pittsburgh (4-4, 3-4 ACC) Saturday evening, falling 41-17 in a physical contest. A superhuman effort from the Panthers’ front seven materialized into 7 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss against FSU.
Questionable heading into the game, senior Kenny Pickett halted the Panthers’ 4-game losing streak and flawlessly picked apart the Noles’ (2-5, 1-5 ACC) secondary. Freshman receiver Jordan Addison continued his strong 2020 rookie campaign with 11 catches for 127 yards.
After Pitt nailed a 51-yard field goal on their opening possession, Florida State answered with a scoring drive of their own. The Noles rattled off a 10-play drive and former quarterback and current tight end Wyatt Rector motioned under center and snuck in from a yard out to give FSU a 7-3 lead.
Pinned back deep in their own territory on their second possession, Florida State ran the ball three straight plays. But redshirt sophomore quarterback Jordan Travis again made an excellent play with his legs on third down, spinning and juking for the Panthers for one of the longest runs in FSU history and an 88-yard touchdown.
Travis forced a pass and was picked off on Florida State’s own 32-yard-line, setting up the Pittsburgh offense. A quarterback draw from third-stringer Nick Patti cut the FSU lead to 14-10.
The two teams traded punches and Pittsburgh pushed a 45-yard field goal to the right with seven minutes to play in the first half. Florida State was pinned back on their next possession and the Panthers began to get after Travis and the Noles offensive line.
Pittsburgh’s offense again started in FSU territory, and retook the lead with another Patti designed quarterback goal-line run.
Now trailing 17-14, Norvell gambled at midfield and went for it on fourth-and-two, but Lawrance Toafili was stuffed for a gain of one. Pickett hit a 28-yard pass and then ran one in on his own to go up 10.
Aided by two crucial penalties, Florida State matriculated down the field at the end of the half and kicker Parker Grothaus connected on a 47-yarder to make it 24-17. Battered and bruised by a relentless Pittsburgh pass rush, Travis did not dress for the second half and was unable to return to the game.
With Travis sidelined, redshirt junior quarterback James Blackman started the second half for the Noles. His first pass was batted to the ground, and on third down his second attempt was intercepted.
Operating in plus territory, it took Pittsburgh just three plays to punch it in and go up 31-17 just a minute into the second half. True freshman quarterback Chubba Purdy replaced Blackman on the ensuing drive.
After trading blows the rest of the third quarter, Pittsburgh worked their way into the red zone to start the fourth. Pinned back on their own one-yard-line, FSU held Patti from his third score on back-to-back quarterback sneaks. Panther head coach Pat Narduzzi elected for a field goal to go up 34-17 with twelve minutes left.
In desperation mode still down 17, Purdy was picked off and returned for a touchdown for Pittsburgh. In an anti-climatic fourth quarter, the Noles were held again and Pittsburgh ran out the clock for a dominant victory.