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Pitt

Second-quarter explosion leads Pitt past Louisville

Jerry DiPaola
| Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, 7:21 p.m.
Pitt's George Aston dives into the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's George Aston dives into the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Dontez Ford celebrates his second-quarter touchdown against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Dontez Ford celebrates his second-quarter touchdown against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Avonte Maddox celebrates as he cruises into the end zone during an interception return against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Avonte Maddox celebrates as he cruises into the end zone during an interception return against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Tyler Boyd pulls in a second-quarter touchdown over Louisville's Josh Harvey-Clemons on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Tyler Boyd pulls in a second-quarter touchdown over Louisville's Josh Harvey-Clemons on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Avonte Maddox pulls in a interception in front of  Louisville's Jamari Staples in the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Avonte Maddox pulls in a interception in front of Louisville's Jamari Staples in the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Bam Bradley celebrates with Avonte Maddox after Maddox's interception return for a touchdown against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Bam Bradley celebrates with Avonte Maddox after Maddox's interception return for a touchdown against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt's George Aston dives into the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's George Aston dives into the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Ejuan Price sacks Louisville quarterback Kyle Bolin in the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Ejuan Price sacks Louisville quarterback Kyle Bolin in the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Jordan Whitehead tackles Louisville's Charles Standberry in the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Jordan Whitehead tackles Louisville's Charles Standberry in the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Dontez Ford pulls in a second-quarter touchdown against  Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Dontez Ford pulls in a second-quarter touchdown against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Jeremiah Taleni pressures Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Jeremiah Taleni pressures Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Avonte Maddox defends a pass intended for Louisville's Ja'Quay Savage in the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Avonte Maddox defends a pass intended for Louisville's Ja'Quay Savage in the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt fullback George Aston reaches out to stiff-arm Louisville's Shaq Wiggins in the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt fullback George Aston reaches out to stiff-arm Louisville's Shaq Wiggins in the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Tyler Boyd on Pitt, which beat Louisville, 45-34, on Saturday for its eighth win. 'We're just well coached.'
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Tyler Boyd on Pitt, which beat Louisville, 45-34, on Saturday for its eighth win. 'We're just well coached.'
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi looks on against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi looks on against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt quarterback Nate Peterman throws a touchdown pass to George Aston in the second quarter against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt quarterback Nate Peterman throws a touchdown pass to George Aston in the second quarter against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Jordan Whitehead stretches the ball for a first down against Louisville in the first quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Jordan Whitehead stretches the ball for a first down against Louisville in the first quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Matt Galambos defends a fourth-quarter pass intended for Louisville's Cole Hikutini on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Matt Galambos defends a fourth-quarter pass intended for Louisville's Cole Hikutini on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Nicholas Grigsby tackles Louisville running back Brandon Radcliffe for a loss in the third quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Nicholas Grigsby tackles Louisville running back Brandon Radcliffe for a loss in the third quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt running back Quadree Ollison powers into the end zone against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt running back Quadree Ollison powers into the end zone against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt running back Quadree Ollison breaks into open field ahead of Louisville's Devontre Parnell on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt running back Quadree Ollison breaks into open field ahead of Louisville's Devontre Parnell on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Qadree Ollison celebrates with George Aston after Aston's second-quarter touchdown against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Qadree Ollison celebrates with George Aston after Aston's second-quarter touchdown against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Avonte Maddox defends a pass intended for Louisville's Devonte Peete on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Avonte Maddox defends a pass intended for Louisville's Devonte Peete on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Ejuan Price (5) celebrates his sack of Louisville quarterback Kyle Bolin in the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Ejuan Price (5) celebrates his sack of Louisville quarterback Kyle Bolin in the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Heinz Field.

Coach Pat Narduzzi had some regrets — if only a few — after Pitt's 45-34 victory Saturday against Louisville.

But none hurt him as much as this one: He can't have a rematch with ACC Coastal Division champion North Carolina.

“We can't think about what we didn't do,” Narduzzi said. “We didn't take care of our business, and North Carolina has a good football team. I guess they deserve to be where they are. Sure wish we could have a rematch.”

Pitt's goal of winning an ACC championship disappeared at the start of its game when North Carolina defeated Virginia Tech in overtime to clinch the division title. The Tar Heels will play Clemson on Dec. 5 for the ACC championship.

Narduzzi said his team didn't know about the North Carolina victory until after the game.

“I kind of mentioned it to them,” he said.

From the outset, however, Pitt was focused on its own business.

The Panthers (8-3, 6-1) cruised to a 42-17 lead that seemed to be an indicator of a dominant victory. But Louisville (6-5, 5-3) trimmed the lead to eight points at the start of the fourth quarter, largely because Pitt's pass defense allowed 355 yards and three touchdown passes.

Before a crowd of 42,119 at Heinz Field, Pitt won despite scoring only a field goal after halftime.

“Just another step forward,” Narduzzi said, not wanting to appear excessively pleased with his team's second consecutive victory. “I don't think they had a whole lot of fun at the end of the game, even singing the fight song (to fans in one corner of Heinz Field).

“Which is good. The bar is up there,” he said, raising his hand over his head. “Looking for better than what we got.

“We'll take it any way we can get it.”

Pitt was at its best in the second quarter, when it scored 35 points on five touchdowns. Its 42-point total before halftime was the most since scoring 42 at Rutgers in 2003.

Quarterback Nathan Peterman threw a career-high four touchdown passes in a little more than nine minutes — one an impressive pitch to wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who was double-teamed in the end zone. Cornerback Avonte Maddox also returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown.

Yet Louisville fought back and appeared able to make a game of it in the second half.

Narduzzi said he wasn't worried, and his halftime speech to his team reflected that.

“I told them, ‘I'm not worrying about winning this game,' ” he said. “It's just about how many points we are going to win by.

“That's kind of the attitude. We knew we weren't going to lose the game.

“Louisville must have made some plays, but we made more of them today.”

The plays came from Peterman and Boyd and three other sources:

• Dontez Ford (a touchdown reception for the second consecutive week).

• Fullback George Aston, a former walk-on who caught two 4-yard flips for touchdowns.

• Running back Qadree Ollison, who ran for 152 yards and a touchdown and became the fifth Pitt freshman at hit 1,000 yards (1,011).

“I thought we were clicking really well,” said Peterman, who completed 22 of 34 passes for 232 yards. He threw no interceptions for seventh time in nine starts.

He said the Louisville comeback didn't cause panic on the sideline, but it pointed out some problems.

“It's always about the next play,” he said. “There are some errors mentally and throughout the second half to correct.”

Then there was the epic game by senior defensive end Ejuan Price, who recorded five sacks, the most by an FBS player this season (at least before the games Saturday night).

“Early in the first quarter, I said they can't block Ejuan,” Narduzzi said, “Staying low, coming around the corner, speed rush. That's a giant man's game.”

Mix all the ingredients, and you get the most Pitt regular-season victories (eight) since 2009 and its best all-time conference record (6-1).

Narduzzi expects better, but he was pleased Pitt kept attacking, even during Louisville's rally.

“You can't play scared,” he said “You're playing to win, not playing not to lose.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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