Kaaya, Hurricanes offense too much for Panthers
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Brad Kaaya picked on Pittsburgh’s secondary with his arm, and even caused problems with his legs.
Kaaya passed for 356 yards and four touchdowns, ran for another score and Miami snapped a four-game losing streak by beating Pittsburgh 51-28 on Saturday.
“This is like the home stretch,” Kaaya said. “This should provide us with some good momentum going forward, to stop the bleeding.”
Never accused of being overly mobile, Kaaya sent the Miami sideline into celebration with a 12-yard run — the longest of his career. But most important to Miami were these Kaaya numbers: 13 straight completions to start the game, a career-high 32 completions in 47 attempts, no interceptions and getting sacked only once by a Pittsburgh defensive front that came in averaging 3.5 per game this season.
“So many really good things happened, I don’t really know where to start,” Miami coach Mark Richt said. “The bottom line is we got a great victory in front of our home crowd, and I’m very thankful.”
Stacy Coley and David Njoku each caught two touchdown passes and Ahmmon Richards finished with 144 yards receiving for Miami (5-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Mark Walton ran for 125 yards, the last 55 of those coming on a touchdown with 2:12 left for the Hurricanes — who avoided becoming the first Miami team to lose five straight in the same season since 1977.
“It definitely gets us back on track,” Miami defensive back Corn Elder said.
Nathan Peterman threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns for Pitt (5-4, 2-3). Quadree Henderson had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown for the Panthers, who have dropped two straight.
Pitt had two costly third-quarter turnovers, a fumble deep in its own territory that Miami turned into a touchdown and then an interception in the end zone.
“Anytime you get two turnovers — we had two in the third quarter which were critical — you have a hard time winning the football game,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “We gave them momentum in the third quarter. Two turnovers in bad territory, you just can’t do it.”
Kaaya’s four TD passes tied a career-best, and marked the first time he had that many against an ACC opponent.
James Conner had a rushing touchdown for the Panthers, but was held to 40 yards on 12 carries. George Aston and Jester Weah had touchdown catches for Pitt, which led 21-20 in the second quarter before getting stopped on 10 of its next 11 drives.
“I feel like I didn’t make enough throws on my part,” Peterman said. “I think that was certainty a big part of it. I have got to be better. It’s a tough loss. We have to go back and realize we got beat and realize where we can get better.”
Pitt’s previous two ACC losses this season were by a combined four points. The 23-point margin was Pitt’s biggest loss since a 56-28 defeat against Georgia Tech on Oct. 25, 2014.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers had a surprising amount of trouble getting to Kaaya. Pittsburgh — which came in averaging 3.5 sacks per game — sacked him only once, thwarted by a Miami offensive line that yielded 18 during the four-game losing streak. … When teams throw for more than 332 yards against Pitt this season, they’re 4-0. When they don’t, they’re 0-5. … Pitt lost starting defensive tackle Tyrique Jarrett midway through the second quarter.
Miami: The Hurricanes came into the day with seven scoring drives this season of 10 plays or more. They had four on Saturday, three of those being touchdowns. … Kaaya’s 13-for-13 start left him one shy of tying Miami’s school record for consecutive completions, set in 1986 by Vinny Testaverde against Oklahoma.
On his fifth try, Richt got his 150th career win. He’s the 10th active FBS coach with that many.
Pittsburgh: Visits Clemson on Nov. 12, in the Panthers’ final road game of the regular season.
Miami: Visits Virginia on Nov. 12, looking for a win that would secure bowl-eligibility.