NC State had the chance to beat Clemson last month with a field goal but blew it and lost in overtime. Saturday night at Death Valley, Pitt kicker Chris Blewitt (pronounced BLUE-it) had a chance to beat the Tigers with a field goal, and he did not blow it. His 48 yarder with :06 to play split the uprights and the hearts of Tiger fans everywhere and gave the Panthers, 21 point underdogs, a 43-42 upset of the 2nd ranked Tigers.
Clemson’s offense had one of those pinball machine kind of games. The Tigers eschewed the run and attacked the 126th ranked passing defense with 70 Deshaun Watson passes. 55 were caught, 52 of them by Tigers for an ACC record 580 yards. Mike Williams and Artavis Scott set career highs with 15 and 13 catches respectively.
But those three passes that went to the Panthers hurt. Two were end zone picks and the third was taken away at the Pitt 14, so three scoring opportunities were lost. And the Panthers turned two of those turnovers into 13 points including a touchdown with 5:17 to play that pulled them within two points after the conversion failed and gave them the chance to win with a field goal.
Even with all those shiny passing numbers, the game for Clemson game down to a single, solitary yard the Tigers could not achieve. Leading 42-40 with 1:11 to play, the Tigers faced third and one at the Pitt 35 yard line. Get the first down and they can take a knee.
Now, after all those passes, Dabo Swinney decided to go to the run. On third down, Wayne Gallman was stopped for no gain. After each sided burned a timeout, Swinney called Gallman’s number again, and again the Pitt defense was up to the challenge stopping him for no gain.
So, after putting the entire game on the arm of his All-American quarterback, Swinney took the ball out of Watson’s hands and into Gallman’s because he believed his offensive line could get him a yard on two tries. They failed.
At least Swinney could count on his defense to come up big and save the day, right? Not so fast my friends. Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman was pretty good all day, too. He broke off a nine yard run followed by two passes totaling 25 yards and with :12 to play the Panthers were at the Clemson 30.
That was well within Blewitt’s range. His career long is 56 yards and all he was asked to do was hit from 48. As he did against NC State, Swinney used his last time out to freeze the kicker. It was to no avail as the senior from Virginia nailed the kick and the coffin on Clemson’s perfect season.
The loss ends Clemson regular season winning streak at 23, its home winning streak at 21 and its conference winning streak at 15. Yet, the Tigers still have their pre-season goals ahead of them of winning their division, winning the league and winning the state championship. That’s the motivational button Swinney will push this week as he prepares his team for a trip to Wake Forest.
Dabo Swinney postgame press conference
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi talks about the win
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott on last two play calls
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson
Clemson running back Wayne Gallman