For the first time since 2014, Clemson will have three losses on the year.
The Tigers’ offensive struggles came to a head against a stacked 23rd-ranked Pitt team, which culminated in a 27-17 loss to the Panthers on Saturday at Heinz Field. It’s the first time this season where a Clemson conference game has been decided by more than a touchdown and the largest league margin of defeat for the squad since falling to Georgia Tech 28-6 in 2014.
Mental lapses on defense
Clemson’s defense has the experience to be a disciplined group and usually are. One possession of blown coverage and penalties cost them late in the second quarter, however. It started with a pass interference call on Trenton Simpson, which gave Pitt nine yards, then Baylon Spector had a late hit on a Panthers receiver for 15 more yards.
Pitt ended up scoring on the drive with freshman Barrett Carter leaving Taysir Mack open for the 39-yard touchdown grab 40 seconds before the midpoint. The Panthers went into halftime with a 14-7 advantage.
Return of Shipley
One month after Will Shipley injured his shin, the freshman running back was back for Clemson. Aside from a drop over the middle that likely would’ve been a touchdown in the second quarter, he had a solid outing of 52 yards on 10 carries for an average of 5.2 yards per tote.
Kobe Pace got the start at running back, but Shipley rotated in often with his longest run of 14 yards coming early in the second quarter.
DJ Uiagalelei benched
Coming out of halftime, Tigers quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei threw a pick-six to Pitt linebacker SirVocea Dennis to give the Panthers a 21-7 lead.
Uiagalelei was then benched for redshirt sophomore backup quarterback Taisun Phommachanh. On the first two plays, the Connecticut native had a 14-yard pass to Justyn Ross and a 17-yard run. He couldn’t get the Tigers in the end zone, but did enough to get points as B.T. Potter made a 42-yard field goal for Clemson’s first points since the first quarter, narrowing the deficit 21-10. He played the next drive as well, which ended in 18 seconds with the three-and-out.
Uiagalelei later returned to the game in the Tigers’ first drive of the fourth quarter with 9:24 left in regulation. He capped the series with a six-yard touchdown run for the 27-17 score.
Clemson-Pitt by the numbers
36 — With Frank Ladson, Joseph Ngata and E.J. Williams out, the Tigers needed its remaining receiving corps to step up. Where they’ve struggled with big plays this season, Ajou Ajou pulled down a 36-yard pass from D.J. Uiagalelei in the first quarter to get Clemson near the red zone. Four plays later, Phil Mafah scored his first collegiate touchdown on a one-yard run to give the Tigers an early 7-0 lead.
868 — Pitt quarterback Kenny Picket became the Panthers’ all-time completions leader in the second quarter. He found Jordan Addison for a 23-yard TD pass to get the Panthers on the board and tie the game at 7. With the pass, Pickett recorded 868 career completions, surpassing the previous record of 867 set in 1992.
6 — With the loss, Clemson’s ACC championship streak will likely end at six years. Though Pitt is in the Coastal Division, the Tigers now have two losses in conference action, falling behind undefeated Wake Forest and one-loss N.C. State, which dealt Clemson a 27-21 double overtime loss a month ago. Clemson had a chance to keep the streak going but had to win out, and with a 3-2 league mark, the chances are slimmer than slim.
Next Clemson football game
Who: Clemson vs Florida State
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30
Where: Memorial Stadium in Clemson