Pittsburgh Panthers 49, New Mexico Lobos 27
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.
In an area that was crucial to New Mexico success in Pittsburgh, the Lobos came up huge. New Mexico came up with four takeaways Saturday in Pittsburgh, which greatly helped the Lobos in reaching the scoreboard.
And slowed down Pittsburgh’s run to the board.
The Lobos got interceptions from Dante Caro and Dallas Bollema while Caro and Isaiah Brown pounced on loose balls on the grass of Heinz Field.
The Lobos also went East hoping to dominate the clock and that stat also leaned toward New Mexico: 36:42 to 23:18 in time of possession. The clock and those opportunistic defensive gems helped UNM, but didn’t make much difference in the outcome.
The Panthers built a 35-6 halftime lead, pushed it to 42-6 on their first possession of the second half and then hung on for the 49-27 victory.
Pitt ended the game with 527 total yards to 270 for New Mexico. The Panthers racked up 283 yards on the ground to 213 for the Lobos. Kasey Carrier, the nation’s leading rushing going into Pittsburgh, was held to 22 yards on only seven carries. He had 41 totes at UTEP a week earlier.
The Lobos ran 69 plays to 52 for Pitt, but the Panthers averaged 10.1 yards per play while UNM averaged 3.9 yards. Pitt passed for 244 yards to 57 for the Lobos.
The cruncher for the Lobos in this non-conference game in Heinz Field was the first 30 minutes. Pitt gave up three turnovers in the first half, but was still dominant on the field and on the scoreboard. The Panthers had 388 first-half yards to 59 for UNM, averaged 12.5 yards per play to 2.0 for the Lobos and had 17 first downs to five for the visitors from the West.
The Lobos ran for five yards in the first half.
The Lobos’ challenge was to play better in the second half, get some momentum to carry into their bye week, and get better for their Sept. 28 Mountain West opener at home on Branch Field vs. UNLV.
The Lobos did play better in the second half using a Cole Gautsche-fueled option to score two unanswered touchdowns and put some respectability on the scoreboard at 42-20. Gautsche, coming off a bye week of his own due to concussion-like symptoms, played well.
The sophomore quarterback had 50 yards on 10 carries and scored two TDs.
The bad thing about the option -- in this game with this score -- was it worked too much time off the clock and made it difficult to climb out of that 42-6 hole. The Lobos stalled at the 13:15 mark of the fourth quarter when they faked a punt, but the run was stuffed by Pitt. That pretty much ended any shot of a miracle comeback. Pitt marched on its next possession to form its 49-20 gap.
The Lobos scored late, a Crusoe Gongbay 20-yard run at the :52 mark, to shorten the final gap. Gongbay finished with 95 yards on 10 carries.
Pitts’ Tom Savage went 13-of-17 for 236 yards. The Panthers had two runners over 100 yards with Isaac Bennett rolling for 101 and James Connor bulling for 119. Tyler Boyd hauled in six passes for 134 yards and Devin Street had five receptions for 80 yards.
The loss dropped UNM to 1-2 on the season heading toward an important MW opener. UNLV beat UNM 35-7 in 2012 in Las Vegas. Pitt moves on toward Duke.
"I think we were overwhelmed," said Lobo Coach Bob Davie. "We were rattled. We weren't in rhythm at all in the first half. We were out of rhythm.
"Defensively, we just couldn't stop them. We just couldn't tackle them. They exploited us and that's a concern. Because we can't win unless we can stop someone. It's a concern right now."
The score at the half, 35-6, leaned heavily toward Pittsburgh – as did the game stats. "We got hit hit in the mouth hard in the first half," said Davie.
The Lobos came up with three takeaways which only led to three Lobo points on the board, but the steals helped mightily in keeping the ball out of Pitt hands. The Lobos started the first quarter with a Pitt turnover and started the second quarter with a Pitt turnover.
The first quarter began with a good start for the Lobos, but it was not a good quarter on the board. Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage went into the pocket off some play action and completed his first pass of the game: to UNM’s Dante Caro. The Lobos took over at the 31, failed to drive, and missed a 46-yard field goal on 4th-and-10.
The Panthers took over and got a first-down running the ball. Savage then hit Tyler Boyd on a deep post route that led to Savage finding a wide-open tight end, Scott Orndoff, in the right side of the end zone on 3rd-and-four. 7-0
The Lobos got on the board thanks to a 74-yard kickoff return by Carlos Wiggins. Again, the UNM offensive fizzled, but Justus Adams banged a 28-yard field goal off the post. 7-3.
Pittsburgh worked the edges on their next drive and ended it with Boyd going 33 yards on an end-around. 14-3. The Panthers again did not allow the Lobos to find a first down. Pitt took over and drove for another score: 21-3.
You look at time of possession in the first 15 minutes and it didn’t look that bad for the Lobos: 7:34 for Pitt, 7:26 for UNM. The rest of the numbers leaned mightily toward the Panthers: 206 total yards to minus eight, nine first downs to zero, 11.4 yards per play to minus 0.8. The Lobos had minus 11 yards rushing.
The Lobos got a break in the second quarter when a Ben Skaer punt came down off a Panther leg and Caro recovered for his second takeaway. UNM drove to the Pitt 1-yard line and was looking at a 4th-and-goal. UNM lined up to go for it, shifting Gautsche out of the huddle in favor of Mitchem, and were called for a delay of game. UNM settled for an Adams’ field goal. 21-6.
Pitt rolled through the UNM defense for another score with Connor bulling his way for the final 38 yards over the left side of the UNM defense: 28-6. A Pitt drive late in the quarter ended with a Dallas Bollema interception at the UNM 13-yard line.
UNM took over with 3:12 to play, but lost the ball on fourth down. Pitt took over on its 44 with 23 seconds to play. Savage put a dagger in the Lobos’ back with a Hail-Mary bomb to the back of the end zone that Boyd pulled down in traffic with no ticks on the clock. Pitt left the field with a 29-point lead.
"I leave here with mixed emotions," said Davie. "I know how far we have to go. But I also know we have a chance to be pretty good.
"We didn't play as good as we can play today. I understand that. But there was no division. There was no quiting. There was no pointing fingers. I think we are building something."