Pitt Panthers wary as resilient Miami looms in finale
PITTSBURGH (AP) Artie Rowell knows about instability at the top.
Spend five years at Pittsburgh and it comes with the territory. So the senior center understands what Miami is going through after Al Golden was fired last month and replaced on an interim basis by Larry Scott, who is 3-1 since taking over heading into Friday's regular-season finale against the Panthers.
''They are kind of wounded but they are playing with something to prove,'' Rowell said. ''No way they're throwing the towel in.''
It certainly doesn't look like it. Miami (7-4, 4-3 ACC) still has a shot at a nine-win season. While nowhere near the school's perpetual sky-high expectations, it would match the team's best victory total since joining the ACC in 2004.
Plus, a win over the Panthers could get Miami into perhaps the Pinstripe Bowl. There's a large contingent of Hurricane alumni in the greater New York area and Miami has been eyeing a game in that part of the country for years.
Pitt (8-3, 6-1 ACC) has already assured itself of second in the ACC Coastal Division - heady territory for a program picked to finish sixth in the preseason - and appears to be getting better. The Panthers blew out Duke in the second half two weeks ago and put up 42 points in the first half against Louisville last Saturday.
The Panthers have emerged from the usual Coastal chaos thanks in part to Pat Narduzzi's energy and a senior class that provided a steadying presence when he became the third full-time head coach since 2011.
''They're my guys because they embraced me when I came and walked through this room ... as a head football coach,'' Narduzzi said. ''I look back and they bought in to what we're doing.''
Rowell was redshirted by Todd Graham in 2011 and mentored and brought along by Paul Chryst from 2012-14 before becoming the unquestioned leader of a line that has more than held its own while helping freshman Qadree Ollison to go over 1,000 yards. Rowell will leave Pitt on more solid ground than he found it, especially with Narduzzi running things.
''Coach is trying to build something here,'' Rowell said. ''I can't see why they can't continue to get better every single year.''
SO LONG?: Pitt junior wide receiver Tyler Boyd will have plenty to think about this offseason, as the school's all-time leader in catches and yards receiving considers whether to return for his senior year or - far more likely - enter the NFL draft. ''I'm never going to recruit a guy to stay,'' Narduzzi said.
KAAYA WATCH: Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya should pass Bernie Kosar, Ryan Clement, Craig Erickson and Vinny Testaverde and become No. 5 on the school's all-time passing list this week. Kaaya has 5,956 career yards, currently ninth in Miami history but only 103 from passing Testaverde for that fifth spot. He threw for 296 yards against Pitt last season.
HOTEL HOLIDAY: The Hurricanes were planning to spend Thanksgiving together in their hotel, celebrating the holiday as a team. ''The University of Miami has another opportunity the day after Thanksgiving to put our brand on national TV and go out and represent our community, our school and our university,'' Scott said. ''What an awesome opportunity for our kids.''
PRICE IS RIGHT: Pitt defensive end Ejuan Price leads the ACC with 11 1/2 sacks, five of them coming in last week's win over Louisville. Heady territory for a fifth-year senior who at 6-feet, 250 pounds doesn't exactly cast an imposing shadow.
RULE OF 28: When Miami allows more than 28 points on the road, that's usually very bad for the Hurricanes. Miami is 1-9 in its last 10 road games when giving up more than 28 points - but the lone win in that span was the 41-31 victory in Pittsburgh two seasons ago.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.
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