Hall rushes for 3 TDs, Pitt knocks off Duke 24-17
By JOEDY McCREARY
Oct. 21, 2017
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke twice thought it had Pittsburgh pinned deep in its own end of the field. Both times, that became prime scoring position for Darrin Hall.
Hall rushed for career highs of 254 yards and three touchdowns, including two long ones before his go-ahead 4-yarder with 10:48 to play, and Pittsburgh upset Duke 24-17 on Saturday.
Hall broke a century-old school record with his 92-yard touchdown run that came 18 seconds after Duke took a double-digit lead, and also scored on an early 79-yard run for the Panthers (3-5, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Before this, Pitt hadn't rushed for more than 208 yards as a team all season. This became the best day by an individual Pitt rusher since James Conner ran for 263 yards and three scores in a loss to Duke in 2014.
"I got faith in all of them, guys," coach Pat Narduzzi said of his running backs. "He ended up being the hot guy today. I knew he had it in him. ... Our offensive line came out with an attitude today."
The touchdown underdogs had lost five of six but gained a season-high 485 total yards and beat a power-conference team for the first time this season.
Daniel Jones was 15 of 33 for 272 yards with two touchdown passes in the second half, a 58-yarder to Shaun Wilson and a 39-yarder to T.J. Rahming that gave the Blue Devils a short-lived 17-7 lead in the final minute of the third quarter.
Duke (4-4, 1-4) has lost four straight after opening the season with four wins. Each of the last three has come by seven points.
"It takes a whole lot of mental toughness and focus to get back on track," Jones said. "We are certainly capable of that. As a team, we'll look to bring that out of each other and prepare as hard as we can and work on keeping our heads focused on what we have in front of us."
Alex Kessman made it a seven-point game with his 45-yard field goal with 1:41 to play. The Blue Devils moved inside Pitt territory in the final minute before Jones' final pass bounced off tight end Daniel Helm's hands and was intercepted by Jordan Whitehead with 45 seconds remaining.
Hall gave a colossal boost to the ACC's worst ground game. Pitt ranks 113th in the nation with an average of 113.7 yards rushing and failed to reach the 100-yard mark on the ground in three of its previous four games.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers seem to have found their running back — and maybe their offense, too. Hall was listed as a co-starter with Qadree Ollison on the pre-game depth chart, but Narduzzi clearly kept riding the hot hand. Ollison carried three times for 17 yards while Hall more than doubled his previous career high of 103 yards set two years ago against Miami. Pitt had broken the 400-yard mark only once before this, gaining 479 against Rice.
"We talked, the key to victory was being able to run the football," Narduzzi said. "And I think we proved we can do that."
Duke: This is starting to feel like a repeat of 2016 for the Blue Devils, who finished last season with four wins and now will be stuck on that number again for more than a full month since their victory at North Carolina on Sept. 23. The Blue Devils have allowed three of their last four opponents to gain at least 400 total yards after not allowing that many in any of their first four games.
"Whether it's the kicking game, the offense — which it's been a bunch — or whether it's the defense, we've had failures when you can't afford to have them," a clearly irritated Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "We have flashes of brilliance at times in all three. Flashes are not what you're looking for."
No play was more important than a disputed fourth-quarter catch by Pitt's Jester Weah. Ben DiNucci lofted a long pass downfield for Weah, and it appeared that cornerback Mark Gilbert got both hands around the ball before Weah also did. The officials ruled it a simultaneous catch, giving the Panthers the ball at the Duke 11, and Hall scored the go-ahead TD two plays later.
Cutcliffe argued that "Gilbert caught the ball and it was wrestled to a tie," adding that "the Jumbotron didn't look simultaneous to me." Narduzzi said the simultaneous ruling "wasn't even a question" and "I was wondering what Cutcliffe was talking with over there. He's an offensive guy. He knows that."
Hall's longer two touchdown runs — Pitt's longest two scoring plays of the season from scrimmage — kept alive an unwanted trend for the Duke defense. The Blue Devils have allowed 11 touchdowns of 40 or more yards this year. They've given up at least one in every game but two (Northwestern, Virginia).
Pittsburgh: The Panthers return home to face Virginia.
Duke: The Blue Devils visit No. 14 Virginia Tech next Saturday night.
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