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RECAP: Kenny Pickett guides No. 21 Pittsburgh past North Carolina in overtime

Nov 11, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Jared Wayne (5) catches a thirty-two yard touchdown pass against North Carolina Tar Heels defensive back Storm Duck (29) during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 11, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Jared Wayne (5) catches a thirty-two yard touchdown pass against North Carolina Tar Heels defensive back Storm Duck (29) during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Kenny Pickett threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Krull in overtime and No. 21 Pitt made a defensive stop to pull out a 30-23 victory against visiting North Carolina on Thursday night.

The Panthers, who are the country’s highest-scoring team, didn’t score in the second half as they squandered a 16-point lead. But Pitt (8-2, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) kept control of the Coastal Division race.

Pickett threw for three touchdowns and 346 yards on 25-of-43 passing. He was intercepted once.

North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell was 22-for-33 for 296 yards and two touchdowns, though he was sacked five times in the first half. His fourth-down pass in overtime was intercepted by M.J. Devonshire.

North Carolina (5-5, 3-4) rallied to tie the game 23-23 on Grayson Atkins’ 20-yard field goal with 57 seconds left in regulation. Those points were set up by linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel’s interception of Pickett for the lone turnover until the final play of overtime.

Howell’s fourth-down, 1-yard run allowed the Tar Heels to cut the gap to 23-20 with 5:34 left, completing an 11-play, 92-yard drive.

North Carolina wiped out an 18-point, second-half hole to win Saturday against previous unbeaten Wake Forest, 58-55.

After going up 17-0, Pitt missed an extra point and two field-goal attempts.

Pittsburgh’s defense came up with a fourth-down stop on North Carolina’s first drive of the second half after the Tar Heels used more than 5 1/2 minutes.

Howell’s third-down pass to Antoine Green for a 23-yard touchdown gave the Tar Heels a chance, pulling within 23-13 at the 5:34 mark of the third quarter. A two-point conversion attempt failed.

Pitt held a 17-point lead with two touchdowns and a field goal before the Tar Heels posted a first down.

Howell’s 76-yard pass to Green gave North Carolina its first points with 6:24 left in the second quarter.

It took the Panthers less than two minutes to respond, with Pickett’s 32-yard pass play to Jared Wayne pushing Pittsburgh to a 23-7 edge.

Earlier, Addison had a pair of punt returns that put the Panthers in good shape on their first two scoring possessions.

Vincent Davis began the scoring on a 2-yard run. Pickett hit Gavin Bartholomew with a 1-yard pass for the second touchdown. Sam Scarton’s 34-yard field goal expanded the lead with 10 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Despite putting up 17 points in the first quarter, the Panthers were denied on their first possession when an 11-play drive stalled at the North Carolina 6 on an incomplete pass on fourth-and-1.

–Field Level Media