Tigers stumble in last-second loss

By Alex Maminakis
Courtesy The Journal

CLEMSON — Pittsburgh’s Chris Blewitt nailed a 42-yard field goal with six seconds remaining Saturday to give the visiting Panthers the upset win over No. 2 Clemson, 43-42 — the Tigers’ first loss to an unranked team in five years.

The Death Valley crowd was left stunned on Senior Day as the Tigers lost at Memorial Stadium for the first time since 2013.

“The name of the game is points, and the turnovers caught up with us tonight,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said after the game. “We didn’t capitalize when we had the opportunity, and it cost us.”

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Kerry Gilstrap/Courier
Clemson receiver Hunter Renfrow is taken down by a Pittsburgh defensive back during the Tigers’ loss to the Panthers on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Deshaun Watson’s record-breaking 580 yards and three touchdowns on a 52-of-70 passing night weren’t enough for Clemson (9-1, 6-1 ACC) on Saturday.

The Panthers continued to answer the bell when the Tigers seemed to be pulling away, and did so until the final seconds.

The Tigers needed one yard for a first down on Pitt’s 36-yard line with 58 seconds left in the game to essentially seal the victory. Wayne Gallman came up short. On fourth and one, Clemson ran Gallman again.

Denied again.

Pitt (6-4, 3-3 ACC) got possession and went 30 yards in 52 seconds to set up Blewitt for the win.

“I had nowhere to go,” Gallman said of his final two run attempts. “Give credit to Pittsburgh. They beat us. We’ve just got to move on.”

Swinney said there wasn’t much deliberation on whether or not to go for it on the final fourth-down run with Gallman. The Tigers racked up 630 total yards on the night, but just 50 on the ground on 25 carries.

“Didn’t get it done, so that’s on me,” Swinney said. “We had plenty of opportunities to win the game and we didn’t do it.”

11-16 Page 1B.inddWatson’s record-breaking day came with a price. Aside from the loss, there were three interceptions — two in the red zone. Two of the picks resulted in Pitt touchdowns on the ensuing possessions.

Kerry Gilstrap/Courier
Despite throwing for an ACC-record 580 yards, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson’s three interceptions were costly for the Tigers in a 43-42 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday.

The Panthers’ offense moved the ball effectively all night, starting with a five-play, 75-yard opening drive that resulted in a touchdown and took just 1:52 off the clock. Senior quarterback Nathan Peterman threw for a career-high five touchdowns, with 308 yards and no interceptions. Junior running back James Conner rushed 20 times for 134 yards and a touchdown. Pitt’s offensive performance against Clemson’s defense cannot be overlooked.

“I talked about it all week long. I thought (the Panthers) were a 7-2, 8-1 team, a couple plays away,” Swinney said. “They did a great job. In the first half, man, we had no answer for the shovel pass.”

The good news for Clemson is that the Tigers still control their own destiny. They could have wrapped up the ACC Atlantic Division with a win on Saturday, but the title is still theirs for the taking. The College Football Playoff rankings are hard to predict at times, but Clemson is not out of the conversation by any means.

Swinney and the Tigers echoed the same message after Saturday’s loss: on to the next one.

“We’re still driving the car — we’ve just got one hand on the wheel,” senior center Jay Guillermo said. “(Football) teaches you about life, man. You might not get what you want, but you’ve got to stick with it, no matter what.”