Last-second field goal lifts Navy past Pitt
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Head bowed, face without expression, wide receiver Devin Street knew painfully well Saturday that Pitt threw away an opportunity to right so many wrongs.
A 24-21 loss to Navy — Nick Sloan's 30-yard field goal with no time left won it — did more than drop Pitt to 4-3.
It was another in a string of disappointing defeats that stretches back many years and several coaches. Penalties, a fumble and poor execution on defense were the culprits this time.
“We have to put the puzzle pieces together,” Street said. They're scattered right now.”
Street and quarterback Tom Savage believe they let down the person who deserves better: coach Paul Chryst.
“I say it all the time,” Savage said. “We just have to go out there and do what we're taught. The coaches are calling a great game. It is our responsibility to go out there and perform.”
After the first 20 games of his Pitt coaching career, Chryst is 10-10 and in need of an upset victory or two to salvage respectability this season.
But his team played without rhythm or crisp execution against a Navy team (4-3) that had lost three of its past four games and looked lifeless in the first half.
Seven games into the season, Pitt's offense committed five presnap penalties, and freshman running back James Conner lost a fumble in the first half that shaped the outcome. While the officials were marching off penalty yardage, Chryst could be seen seething along the sideline.
“Good teams don't do that,” Savage said.
Street, who caught nine passes for 96 yards and one of Savage's two touchdown passes, said he believes the team is good enough, but the mistakes are difficult to overcome.
“We can't come out here and play two teams at once,” said Street, who dropped a pass in the first half. “I have to step up, too. I have to look in the mirror and see what I can do better.”
Pitt was in control in the first half, but its offense couldn't sustain modest success in the running game and settled for two field goals by Chris Blewitt before Street caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Savage with 1:41 left in the half.
Even the defense looked good, forcing Navy into four three-and-out possessions when end Bryan Murphy sacked quarterback Keenan Reynolds.
That's when Reynolds grabbed command of the game with a 16-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that exhausted 8:15 spanning the third and fourth quarters.
When the midshipmen shot off the cannon to punctuate Quinton Singleton's 9-yard touchdown, Pitt looked to be in trouble.
Savage rallied the Panthers to what would have been their first fourth-quarter comeback victory in four years. But his 3-yard scoring strike to Tyler Boyd and two-point conversion toss to Street weren't enough.
Reynolds ran for 59 yards on 10 carries in the fourth quarter, tying the game on a 2-yard run with 3:52 remaining.
When Pitt's offense couldn't answer and punter Matt Yoklic managed only a 20-yard punt to the Pitt 49, the game was all but decided.
What was most discouraging to the coaches is that Pitt's defense couldn't stop Reynolds when it counted.
“Honestly, it's very easy (when) you are playing an option team,” Murphy said. “If you do your job, you win the game. We, obviously, didn't play well enough as a unit to win the game.”
Street, who set a Pitt record for career receptions (186), was focused on an offense that hasn't played with much continuity since an early-season victory at Duke.
“Coach Chryst puts his time and effort into this,” Street said. “He loves us. We have to make him proud.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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