The Panthers won thanks to the Pitt Special.

By Jenna West
September 21, 2019

Pittsburgh took down undefeated No. 15 UCF 35–34 at Heinz Field on Saturday to hand UCF its first regular-season loss since 2016.

Down 34–28, the Panthers put together an impressive 12-play, 79-yard drive that culminated with what coach Pat Narduzzi called the "Pitt Special" on fourth-and-goal with 56 seconds remaining on the clock. Quarterback Kenny Pickett ran into the endzone to catch a three-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Matthews to tie the game. Alex Kessman made the extra point to give Pitt the lead.

The play evoked the "Philly Special" made famous by the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.

UCF was coming off an impressive home win over Stanford just one week prior but could not earn a second straight Power 5 win. It had not lost a regular-season game since Nov. 26, 2016, when it fell to South Florida. The Knights then went 13–0 in 2017 and 12–1 in 2018, their only loss coming to LSU in last season's Fiesta Bowl, which it played without injured QB McKenzie Milton. Milton remains sidelined this season as he rehabs, but true freshman Dillon Gabriel had stepped up in 2019 with a strong early start to his career.

Pittsburgh took an early 7–0 lead on its first possession of the game and went on to rattle the Knights by intercepting Gabriel in the next drive. However, the Panthers couldn't capitalize on the pick six after a 10-play drive when Alex Kessman missed a 35-yard field goal.

Up 14–0, Pittsburgh got to Gabriel again as he was looking for Jacob Harris in the end zone but Jacob Pinnick jumped to intercept the pass and hold off UCF. It didn't take much for Pitt to score again by blocking Andrew Kessman's punt, which Wendell Davis returned for an 18-yard touchdown.

UCF finally caught a break when they forced a fumble at Pitt's 27-yard line at 5:41 in the second quarter. Eric Mitchell recovered it for the Knights, who finally scored their first touchdown of the game with Adrian Killin's 11-yard touchdown run with 1:04 remaining in the first half. UCF added a field goal to enter haltime trailing Pitt 21–10.

The Knights started their comeback in the second half by taking the lead with Otis Anderson scoring on an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown. Anderson's fortuitous moment gave UCF their first lead of the game, 24–21, halfway through the third quarter.

Both teams traded touchdowns to narrow UCF's lead to 31–28. However, Pitt missed a chance to tie the game early in the fourth quarter when Alex Kessman missed a 41-yard field goal. The Knights added a field goal to go up 34–28 with 4:36 remaining.

The Knights start conference play next week when they host UConn at 7 p.m. ET. Pitt faces Delware at home at 12:30 p.m. ET.

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