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Duke outlasts Pitt 51-48 in two overtimes

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Thomas Sirk ran five yards for a Duke score in the second overtime to lift the Blue Devils over Pitt 51-48, spoiling a 263-yard rushing performance from the Panthers' James Conner.

Pitt fell to 4-5 (2-3 in the ACC) on the year, including five loses in their last six games. Duke improves to 7-1 (3-1 in the ACC) and stays atop the ACC Coastal division. Pitt edged out Duke in a 58-55 contest last year, and this year’s matchup was another offensive slugfest, featuring seven ties and four lead changes.

A week after a game where Pitt suffered through a first quarter of multiple mistakes, they made another one early when field goal holder Ryan Winslow mishandled the snap, preventing Pitt from attempting a 48-yard field goal on the first drive of the game. Duke took advantage of the short field, as senior wideout Jamison Crowder beat freshman corner Avonte Maddox for a 39-yard touchdown.

Crowder beat Maddox, who was making his second career start due to injuries in the secondary, routinely, racking up 9 receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Crowder moved into second place all-time in ACC history for career receptions today with 247.

Pitt was able to respond on the next possession, as sophomore running back James Conner leaped for a one-yard score to cap off of 10-play drive, nine of which were running plays. Conner set a personal record for most rushing yards in a game with 263.

Duke scored once more before the end of the quarter, as senior quarterback Anthony Boone hit freshman running back Shaun Wilson for a 10-yard touchdown, giving Duke a 14-7 edge with 27 seconds left in the first.

Pitt got a big play from their special teams when Tyler Boyd, who had not returned kickoffs all year before today, fired off a 64-yard return to set Pitt up at Duke’s 32 yard line. Three plays later, sophomore quarterback Chad Voytik ran it in from 13 yards to tie it at 14.

Pitt’s defense held Duke to a three and out the next drive, forcing the only punt in the half. Pitt scored again quickly, with Voytik and Boyd connecting for a 48-yard pass, setting up an 11-yard touchdown reception by tight end J.P. Holtz to give Pitt their first lead of the day at 21-14 with 10:04 left in thPitt Chad Voytike half.

The lead would not last long, as Crowder beat Maddux deep again, this time for a 45-yard score, with 7:56 left. Pitt would respond by eating up over six and a half minutes of clock on a 13-play drive that went for 85 yards, capped off by a three yard pass to a wide open Holtz after Duke bit on a play action.

With 1:17 left before halftime and all their timeouts, Duke marched 75 yards for a score to tie it up at 28 at the half. With 12 seconds remaining, Boone hit Crowder for a 27 yard pass to put the Blue Devils at the one yard line with 3 seconds remaining. Duke opted not to kick the easy field goal, and backup quarterback Thomas Sirk ran it in as time expired.

The second half started with a defensive stop by both teams. Duke broke the tie with 4:24 left in the third when junior kicker Ross Martin hit a 23 yard field goal. It was a big stop for Pitt though, as it kept the Panthers within 3. Pitt responded with a 6 minute drive that ended with a 38 yard field goal from Chris Blewitt, tying the game at 31 with 13:22.

Duke made a big special teams play to respond, as All-American DeVon Edwards took the kickoff back for a 99 yard score. Pitt had an answer, however, pulling off a 15 play drive that went for 85 yards and another 1 yard Conner touchdown to knot it at 38 apiece with 5:18 remaining. On that drive, Voytik completed two important third down passes to keep the chains moving.

After not seeing the ball for nearly 15 minutes worth of game time, Duke’s offense was unable to get anything going. On a third and six at their 43, Boone hit Crowder again, but this time he was caught just short of the marker, forcing them to punt, giving Pitt the ball at the 20 with 2:22 remaining.

Voytik executed a terrific 2 minute drive, running for 24 yards and hitting Dontez Ford for 26 yards on a third down play. It was the sophomore Ford’s first career reception. The drive set up Blewitt from the right hash mark from 26 yards out, but he pushed it left, forcing overtime.

Both Duke and Pitt put up quick scores in their first possession in overtime, with Boone running it in from 12 yards out and Conner from 14. Duke held the Panthers to a three and out to start the second overtime, but Blewitt hit a 43 yard field goal into the closed part of the stadium to give Pitt a 48-45 lead. Pitt James ConnerDuke ended it during their next reception, as Sirk, the redzone running specialist, punched it in from six yards out on a third and two to end it.

Voytik went 16-24 for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Conner also carried the ball a career high 38 times, averaging just under 7 yards a carry. Boyd put up 242 all-purpose yards, including 140 receiving on seven catches.

Pitt has a bye next week and will travel to North Carolina on the 15th for a contest that will play a big part in deciding Pitt’s bowl future.

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