Pitt wins first ACC title against Wake Forest

Pitt has his first ACC title.

The No.15 Panthers snatched 31 straight points en route to a 45-21 win over No.16 Wake Forest on Saturday night in the ACC Championship game. The win is only the third conference title in Pitt’s history and sets the Panthers on track to play in the Peach Bowl.

Pitt (11-2) took a 7-0 lead over the Demon Deacons after Kenny Pickett scored a 58-yard TD after faking a slip. It was a phenomenal move.

Wake Forest (10-3) then took a 21-14 lead after the teams scored touchdowns on the game’s first four possessions. Pitt tied the game in the second quarter, then scored a basket at the end of the time limit before half-time for a 24-21 lead.

The game shifted completely to Pitt in the second half thanks to the struggles of Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman. After the teams each kicked three times each, Erick Hallett made a juggled interception of Hartman. Pitt scored four games later to take a 31-21 lead.

AJ Woods intercepted Hartman on the Demon Deacons’ next possession and returned the 73-yard pass to Wake 3. Three games later, Pitt was leading by 17.

At this point you can guess what happened next. Hallett knocked out Hartman on the opening play of Wake’s next drive and sent him back for 19 yards for a pick-six and a 45-21 lead.

Hartman came on with 10 interceptions in 12 games. He pitched four picks on Saturday night and completed less than 50% of his passes before being substituted midway through the fourth quarter with the game out of reach.

Pickett, meanwhile, had 20 of 33 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 81 career touchdown passes at Pitt and passed Dan Marino for the most touchdown throws in school history with his first quarter touchdown pass to Rodney Hammond.

Whatever New Years Six Bowl game Pitt goes to, it will be the Panthers’ first big bowl since a trip to the Fiesta Bowl after the 2004 season. The conference title is the first for Pitt in 11 years. Pitt last won his conference in 2010 when he was the Big East champion.

Wake Forest, meanwhile, will likely head to the Holiday Bowl or some other higher-level ACC bowl. A victory in a bowl game will give Wake their second 11-game winning season in school history. The first came in 2006 when the Demon Deacons went 11-3 and made it to the Orange Bowl.

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