CLEMSON – Jadar Johnson saved Clemson in Week 1 at Auburn, knocking down two potential touchdown passes in the final seconds.
An on-side kick recovery by the Tigers in Week 2 kept things from getting dicey against Troy.
Marcus Edmond saved the day against Louisville.
Luck, and a raucous crowd, kept N.C. State from drilling a game-winning field goal a month ago.
Jordan Leggett’s acrobatic reach and score bested Florida State.
Taunting defeat in five of their first nine games finally caught up to the No. 2 Tigers on Saturday.
Unranked Pittsburgh got a 48-yard field goal from Chris Blewitt with six seconds left to shock Clemson 43-42 at Memorial Stadium, and the dream of perfection ended.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about finishing,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s my job to put us in a position to finish, and I didn’t do that. Where it starts and stops is with me.”
Swinney and the Tigers (9-1, 6-1 ACC) vow that the season isn’t over. Expectations and goals are still on the table, but it didn’t seem that way to a hushed crowd after a four-hour shootout Saturday.
Deshaun Watson passed for an ACC single-game record 580 yards and tossed three touchdowns on 52 completions. Mike Williams caught 15 passes for 202 yards, both career highs. Wayne Gallman rushed for three touchdowns, but the Tigers managed just 50 yards on the ground, their first game under 100 yards since the Russell Athletic Bowl in 2013.
“You just got to take your hat off to Pitt, their team, their coaches,” said Swinney, who lost at home for the first time since 2013. “They hung in there and they made the plays when they needed to make them.
“This one is on me.”
Watson threw three interceptions to match his pick total (13) from 2015, and it was his last one that proved the most costly.
Pitt picked off a pass at the Panther goal line and returned it to the Clemson 30, and James Conner, who had 132 rushing yards, scored on a 20-yard TD run with 5:17 to play. The two-point conversion failed, and Clemson took over up 42-40 with 5:17 left in the game.
The Tigers tried to run out the clock but couldn’t get one more yard in two tries at the Pitt 35. Swinney didn’t hesitate to go for it, but Gallman came up short on fourth down, and the Panthers took over with 58 seconds remaining.
Pitt QB Nate Peterman, who had 308 passing yards and five touchdowns, then rushed for a 9-yard gain before finding Scott Orndoff for 21 of his 128 yards. The Panthers go to the CU 29 with 12 seconds left, and Blewitt split the uprights to shock the Tiger faithful.
“He’s been a money kicker,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “I knelt down with the guys, said a prayer and I had no doubt it was going to go through. It was destiny.”
That's something Clemson controls a lot less of now.
Brad Senkiw, Anderson Independent-Mail