Catching Up With College Football: Pitt makes it to ACC Championship

Written By Antonio Rossetti, Co-Sports Editor

Nov. 27, 2021 marked the final week of the regular season and many teams played against their rival opponents. Although some conference championship games are already set, there was a lot at stake for the final week of the regular season. Many teams were still battling for bowl eligibility, and others were looking to clinch a division title. This column will recap the results of Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia in their final games of the season.


The 17th ranked Pitt Panthers played against the Syracuse Orange on the road at the Carrier Dome. Both teams were former Big East Rivals before the conference disbanded its football conference in 2013. Both the Orange and Panthers joined the Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC) the following year and play each other every season.

Pitt entered the game with a 9-2 record, winning three consecutive games. With the three conference wins, the Panthers held a 6-1 conference record.

Last week, the Panthers defeated the Virginia Cavaliers, 48-38, clinching the Coastal Division Title in the ACC. This is their first division title since 2018, where they won four straight games down the stretch. Regardless of a win or a loss against the Orange, Pitt will take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the ACC Title game next week.

Meanwhile, Syracuse entered the game with a 5-6 record and a 2-5 conference record. Despite having a rough season in conference play, there is much at stake for the Orange. A win will make them bowl eligible. A win would be their first bowl game berth since 2018.

Last week, the Orange played the North Carolina State Wolfpack and lost by a score of 41-17. This week, the Orange looked to break their losing streak against Pitt. The Panthers had won their last three matchups against Syracuse dating back to 2017.
In the first quarter on the first drive of the game, the Orange received and had a sustained drive, leading to a first-quarter score for Syracuse. They topped it off with a 12-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Garrett Shrader to freshman Courtney Jackson. The drive took 7 minutes and 25 seconds.

Pitt started off the game slow, turning the ball over on downs in Syracuse territory. Nevertheless, the defense forced the Orange to punt after a sack by senior John Petrishen.

Pitt took a while to score their first points, but halfway through the second quarter, senior quarterback Kenny Pickett connected with freshman running back Rodney Hammond for a 15-yard touchdown pass.

On Syracuse’s next drive, junior Erick Hallett forced a Syracuse fumble, which was recovered by junior SirVocea Dennis. Pitt followed up with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to sophomore Jordan Addison, taking the lead 14-7. Pitt held the lead going into halftime.

On the Panther’s first drive of the second half, the team orchestrated a drive that led to a 4-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to freshman Gavin Bartholomew, taking the lead 21-7.

Syracuse had a three and out, forcing them to punt. On Pitt’s next drive, the Panthers would score yet again. Pickett would find Addison for a 5-yard touchdown pass, taking the lead 28-7.

The Orange responded quickly with a drive that led to a Schrader 15-yard touchdown pass to Courtney Jackson. However, this was their last score of the game.

In the waning stages of the game, Pitt would tally a field goal by sophomore Sam Scarton. Pitt expanded their lead to 31-14, and on their next drive they ran the clock out, winning by that score.

The Panthers were led by Pickett who completed 28 of 38 passes, throwing for 209 yards, along with four touchdown passes. Pickett broke Dan Marino’s single-season record for touchdown passes on his second touchdown pass. Addison also had quite the performance, catching 11 passes, for 81 yards, along with 2 touchdowns.

This is their first season with ten regular-season wins since 1981 and their first ten total win season since 2009.

Pitt takes on Wake Forest next week on December 4 in Charlotte for the ACC Championship.

West Virginia

West Virginia took on the Kansas Jayhawks on the road in their final game of the season.
The Mountaineers entered the game with a 5-6 record and a 3-5 Big 12 conference record. Last week, the Mountaineers defeated the Texas Longhorns by the score of 31-23 at home.

Meanwhile, Kansas came in after a heartbreaking loss to the TCU Horned Frogs. The Jayhawks lost off a game-winning field late in the game, 31-28. Kansas entered with a 2-9 record, along with a 1-7 record.

The Mountaineers had won in their last seven meetings against the Jayhawks. The Mountaineers had much at stake as they were battling for a bowl game bid.

Kansas received and had a 3 minute and 37-second drive that led to a 46-yard field goal by sophomore Jacob Borcila.

On the Mountaineers’ first drive of the game, Kansas forced a fumble and recovered on WVU territory. Nonetheless, The Jayhawks turned the ball over on downs, giving the Mountaineers the ball back.

On West Virginia’s second drive, the Mountaineers had a strong drive, capping it off with a 14-yard touchdown pass from senior Jarret Doege to junior Winston Wright Jr., taking the lead 7-3. At the end of the first, the Jayhawks would notch another field goal, making the score 7-6 in favor of WVU.

In the early minutes of the second quarter, Doege would find Wright Jr. yet again for a 14-yard touchdown pass, increasing their lead by eight with a score of 14-6.

On Kansas’ next drive after two big plays by the Jawhawk’s offense, they would score a touchdown off of a pass from sophomore Jalon Daniels to freshman Jared Casey, cutting the lead to one point.

Nearing the end of the first half, Doege connected with junior Sam James for a 7-yard touchdown pass, increasing their lead by eight. The score was 21-13 going into halftime.

At the beginning of the third quarter, Doege would throw an interception to Gavin Potter. The junior linebacker returned the interception for a touchdown. The Jayhawks went for two and were successful, tying the game 21-21 after a costly pick-six.

On the Mountaineers’ next drive, senior running back Leddie Brown scored a 44-yard rushing touchdown, making it 28-21. At the end of the third, junior Casey Legg kicked a 38-yard field goal.

The Mountaineers defense would shut down Kansas for the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth. Legg tallied another field. WVU led 34-21 late in the game.

On the Jayhawks’ last drive of the game, Jalon Daniels would scramble for a 3-yard run, cutting the lead to six. However, the Mountaineers would hang on after recovering the onside kick. The Mountaineers won by the score of 34-28.

The team was led by Leddie Brown who rushed for 156 yards, along with one touchdown.

The Mountaineers are now bowl eligible and await who they will take on in postseason action. This will be their second straight year going to a bowl game.

Penn State

Penn State traveled to East Lansing to take on the number 12 ranked Michigan State Spartans for their final game of the season.

Penn State comes into the game with a 7-4 record and a 4-4 Big Ten conference record. Last week, the Nittany Lions dominated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, shutting them out by a score of 28-0.

Meanwhile, the Spartans entered the game with a 9-2 record and a 6-2 conference record. Last week, Michigan State was dominated by the Ohio State Buckeyes, losing 56-7. That loss eliminated them from the Big Ten title contention.

Nevertheless, the team is still in pursuit of achieving a quality bowl game bid. They also look for their first ten-win season since 2017 and their first ten-win regular season since 2015, where they won the Big Ten Championship against the Iowa Hawkeyes and played the Alabama Crimson Tide in the college football playoff, losing 38-0.

Penn State won their last two previous games against Michigan State and hoped they could have a better bowl status with a win on the road.

Coming into the game, the Spartans were missing 6-8 starters and nearly 20 players due to a flu outbreak. This was expected to play a factor in the game.

The Spartans took no time to score. On the opening drive, the team drove right down the field and capped it off with a 2-yard run by junior running back Kenneth Walker III.

The Spartans would force the Nittany Lions to punt. Despite pinning them to their own 1-yard line, Michigan State would orchestrate a 99-yard drive, which led to a 9-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Payton Thorne to sophomore Tre Mosley.

On Penn States’ next drive trailing by 14, senior Sean Clifford would find senior Jahan Dotson for a 27-yard touchdown pass. This cut the lead to 7, making it 14-7 in favor of the Spartans.

The Penn State defense would make huge plays stopping Michigan State on two drives in a row. With 12:11 left in the second quarter, Clifford threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Dotson, tying the game at 14-14.

The defenses would keep both teams out of the end zone for the rest of the first half. Penn State would hold the Spartans to a field goal after ceasing their drive at the goal line. They would hold the Spartans to a 22-yard field goal by senior Matt Coghlin. The Nittany Lions trailed by the score of 17-14 at the half.

The snow began to fall in the second half. In the opening minutes of the second half, Thorne threw a pick six to Penn State sophomore Daequan Hardy. After a missed extra point, the Nittany Lions led 20-17.

Michigan State would answer with a sustained drive that took up over eight minutes. Thorne would rush for a 1-yard touchdown, retaking the lead 23-20. The PAT was unsuccessful and kept it a three point lead for Michigan State.

Both teams would fumble on numerous occasions in the fourth. With over an inch of snow covering the field, playing conditions were beyond terrible. With a little over five minutes in fourth, Michigan State entered Nittany Lion territory. However, Penn State would force the Spartans to make a crucial decision. On 4th and 15 in field goal range, the Spartans went for it due to the harsh conditions. Thorne would drop back to pass and connected with junior Jayden Reed for a 20-yard touchdown. The phenomenal catch in the snow made by Reed made the score 30-20.
On Penn State’s final drive in the regular season, Clifford connected with sophomore Parker Washington on a 15-yard touchdown pass. However, Michigan State would recover the onside kick and win 30-27.

Despite losing, Clifford had an impressive showing completing 23 of 34 passes and throwing for 313 yards, along with 3 touchdown passes.

Michigan State was led by Walker III who ran for 138 yards, including a touchdown. Thorne also had a solid performance completing 19 of 30 passes, throwing two touchdown passes for 268 yards.

Both Penn State and Michigan State await the announcement on who they will be facing in their bowl games.