Pitt rallies late to secure 38-31 victory against West Virginia

Pete survived a soft-run defense, a slow-moving ground game and six lead changes, but beat West Virginia 38-31 on Thursday night in its 105th backyard brawl at Acrisure Stadium.

An audience of 70,622 — an all-time record for Pittsburgh’s various sporting events — watched Pitt’s defense crumble before providing the decisive score in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers trailed 31-24 for about seven minutes in the final quarter before quarterback Kayton Slovis hit running back Izzy Abanikanda for a 24-yard touchdown with 3:41 left. The score is tied.

Then, Aliquippa graduate MJ Devonshire got a pass that deflected from WVU wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton and finished with 2:58 for a 56-yard tiebreaker touchdown. It was Devon Pitt’s second career late, key interception. He picked up the pass in overtime last season to help Pitt beat North Carolina.

Pete didn’t start playing until Rodney Hammond Jr. replaced starter Abanikanda, who dropped out early. Abanikanda had eight carries for 15 yards before re-entering the trigger rally. Hammond scored twice for 74 yards on 16 attempts.

Slovis threw for 308 yards and hit 16 of his 24 attempts. Pete surrendered 205 yards on the ground — CJ Donaldson had 125 on seven carries and Tony Mathis had 71 on 16 carries.

The fourth quarter was tied 24-24, with the Panthers allowing Donaldson to run for 39 yards and Mathis for 23, leading to a 1-yard dive from quarterback JT Daniels for a 31-24 lead.

Daniels completed 24 of 39 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns.

After making it 10-10 at halftime, Pete couldn’t hold back early in the second half and found himself behind.

After a 3-pointer that included a bag of Slovis, Donaldson blocked freshman Sam Vander Hale’s punt and Hershey McLaughlin sent the ball back to the 14-yard to 5-yard line. Donaldson completed the offense in the next game, and within two minutes of the second half, West Virginia was up 17-10.

After Slovis ran with Jared Wayne on a 64-yard pass, Pitt countered with a 1-yard jump into the end zone by guard Daniel Carter.

Hammond followed, making huge strides in the air, taking a short flip from Slovis and sprinting for 49 yards to 11. On the next play, Hammond dragged West Virginia and Pitt’s players into the end zone, and Pitt led 24-17 with 3 points with 42 points left in the third quarter.

But nothing was easy for Pitt the whole game, and the Mountaineers tied Daniels’ 16-yard touchdown pass in the first game of the fourth quarter.

West Virginia scored the first touchdown of the game, and Pete’s ground game couldn’t find the necessary rhythm.

After Donaldson’s 44-yard run to Pitt’s 10-yard line, Daniels hit Ford Wheaton with 12:45 left in the second quarter.

The touchdown erased Pitt’s 3-0 lead, created by sophomore Ben Sols’ 42-yard field goal with 37 seconds left in the first quarter.

The drive starts with Panthers 3.

The field goal was Sols’ first attempt at college after winning the job from current Sam Scarton during training camp.

Pete’s scoring was almost entirely created by Slovis, who completed all four attempts for 55 yards and scrambled 14 on the drive.

A bad swap gave Pete a brief 10-7 lead.

First, Panthers wide receiver Bub Means conceded after a 14-yard catch. The ball is retrieved at WVU 32 by Mountaineers linebacker Lee Kpogba.

Two games later, Pitt-free safety Eric Hallett recovered wide receiver Caden Prather’s fumble at the West Virginia 35-yard line. The ball was poked loose by cornerback Marquis Williams. Pete needed six games to take the lead on Hammond’s 4-yard run.

West Virginia fought back with 13 possessions for 74 yards and the final game of the first half ended with a 24-yard field goal from Casey Leger.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Jerry via email [email protected] or via Twitter .

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