Pitt ral­lies to beat E. Michi­gan

Ea­gles’ quar­ter­back ejected in fi­nal sec­onds

Antelope Valley Press - - Sports - By LARRY LAGE

DETROIT — Pitts­burgh play­ers took punches, and one was hit with spit, and the Pan­thers still kept their cool in crit­i­cal mo­ments to win a bowl game for the first time in five ap­pear­ances un­der coach Pat Nar­duzzi.

Kenny Pick­ett threw a 25yard touch­down pass to Taysir Mack with 47 sec­onds left and the Pan­thers held on to beat East­ern Michi­gan 34-30 in the Quick Lane Bowl on Thurs­day night.

“Our kids held their com­po­sure,” Nar­duzzi said.

Af­ter tak­ing its first lead of the game in the fi­nal minute, Pitts­burgh (8-5) forced East­ern Michi­gan to turn it over on downs from its 40 to seal its first bowl vic­tory since win­ning in Detroit six years ago with for­mer coach Paul Chryst.

The Ea­gles (6-7) came up just short in a closely con­tested game just as they did in three pre­vi­ous bowls with coach Chris Creighton and the usu­ally dis­ci­plined team un­rav­eled at times.

East­ern Michi­gan quar­ter­back Mike Glass was ejected with 10 sec­onds left af­ter throw­ing punches at two play­ers and in­ad­ver­tently graz­ing an of­fi­cial, who was try­ing keep play­ers sep­a­rated. Ea­gles cor­ner­back Kevin McGill was ejected ear­lier for un­sports­man­like con­duct. Creighton said of­fi­cials told him McGill spit on an op­po­nent.

“There’s ab­so­lutely no ex­cuse for any of that,” Creighton said. “They’re em­bar­rassed by it. They apol­o­gized to the team. I’m em­bar­rassed. I apol­o­gize to any­body’s who’s

watch­ing.”

Glass was 28 of 50 for 311 yards with two touch­downs and an in­ter­cep­tion. The se­nior also ran for 83 yards and a score.

He was not made avail­able for com­ment af­ter the game, but was con­trite on Twit­ter.

“I let God and my fam­ily down!” Glass posted on his ac­count.

Pick­ett com­pleted 27 of 39 passes for 361 yards and three scores, in­clud­ing a school-record, 96-yard TD pass to Mau­rice Ffrench that tied the game in the sec­ond quar­ter. Ffrench fin­ished with 12 catches for 165 yards.

“They had some ex­plo­sive plays that were the dif­fer­ence in the game,” Creighton said.

RECORD BOOKS Ffrench had 96 re­cep­tions this sea­son, break­ing Larry Fitzger­ald’s school record of 92 set in 2003.

“That’s with miss­ing a cou­ple games,” Nar­duzzi said. “He fought back with that broken jaw.”

Glass sur­passed Char­lie Batch’s sin­gle-sea­son records of 3,390 yards of to­tal of­fense and 23 touch­down passes set in 1997.

The marks were marred by the punches Glass threw late in the game.

“He’s in tears in the locker room, beg­ging me to talk to the team be­fore I could say a word,” Creighton said. “He made a mis­take and he is truly sorry for it. I’m ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for it and I’m em­bar­rassed, but I love him 100 per­cent.”

THE TAKE­AWAY

Pitt: Coach­ing con­ti­nu­ity with of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mark Whip­ple re­turn­ing for a sec­ond sea­son should help the pro­gram. The of­fense showed some signs of life in the bowl game af­ter scor­ing 20 or fewer points in eight games this sea­son.

East­ern Michi­gan: The pro­gram is on solid foot­ing, earn­ing con­sec­u­tive bowl bids for the first time and three in four years af­ter pre­vi­ously do­ing it only once as a Di­vi­sion I team. The Ea­gles will just have to hope they can keep Creighton away from Power Five con­fer­ence schools.

CROWD SUP­PORT The game drew a lot of green-and-white clad fans, cheer­ing for the Ea­gles, whose cam­pus is about 30 miles from Ford Field. The at­ten­dance was 34,765, the largest crowd to watch a Quick Lane Bowl since it was cre­ated in 2014.

“Awe­some,” Creighton said. “Six years ago, the vi­sion was to try to make the foot­ball pro­gram a source of pride for the ath­letic de­part­ment, for the univer­sity, for Yp­si­lanti (Michi­gan) and even the re­gion.

UP NEXT

Pitt: Hosts Mi­ami of Ohio on Sept. 5. The Pan­thers will have a chance to be very good on de­fense if de­fen­sive line­man Jaylen Twyman, Pa­trick Jones and safety Paris Ford all choose to stay in col­lege in­stead of en­ter­ing the NFL draft.

East­ern Michi­gan: Plays at Ken­tucky on Sept. 5. The Ea­gles will be break­ing in a new quar­ter­back, at­tempt­ing to re­place Glass. Pre­ston Hutchin­son and Jairus Gris­som gained some ex­pe­ri­ence in 2019 and will likely have a shot to start next sea­son.

As­so­ci­ated Press

CEL­E­BRAT­ING — Pitts­burgh of­fen­sive line­man Jimmy Mor­ris­sey (67) holds the cham­pi­ons trophy af­ter win­ning the Quick Lane Bowl against East­ern Michi­gan, 34-30, on Thurs­day in Detroit.

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