DURHAM, N.C. -- Junior wide receiver Jamison Crowder amassed a career-high 279 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in a 58-55 loss to Pittsburgh in ACC football action Saturday afternoon at Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke quarterback Brandon Connette finished with a career-best 424 yards of offense.
Crowder tallied one rushing touchdown, one receiving and one punt return, marking the first time a Blue Devil had accomplished that feat since Scottie Montgomery did so in 1999. The Monroe, N.C., product also totaled seven catches for 141 yards, while fellow wide receiver Brandon Braxton had five grabs for 97 yards. Connette finished the day with six touchdowns, passing for four and rushing for two, to match a program single-game record.
Trailing 58-48 late in the fourth quarter, Duke’s defense came up with arguably its biggest play of the afternoon, sacking the Pittsburgh (2-1, 1-1 ACC) quarterback to force a punt from the Panthers’ 47-yard line. Pitt, punting for the fifth time on the day, mishandled the snap allowing Duke to take over on downs from Pittsburgh’s 30-yard line.
Following a 25-yard pass from Connette to Crowder and a 1-yard run by Jela Duncan, Connette plunged into the end zone to bring Duke within three with 3:43 to play.
Pittsburgh recovered the on-side kick and was able to run out the clock to hold on for the ACC road victory.
The first half was filled with big plays on both sides of the ball for the Blue Devils. Pitt, after scoring on its opening possession, capitalized on a Duke interception and quickly built its lead to 27-7 early in the third quarter.
After Duke got on the board with a Max McCaffrey 16-yard touchdown reception near the end of the opening quarter, the Panthers put their vertical game on display with 67 and 69-yard touchdown passes for the 20-point lead.
Facing a 20-point deficit with 14:33 to play in the second, the Duke offense started to get into a rhythm. Connette, coming off of two interceptions on his first two series, regrouped and completed three passes for 72 yards in the second quarter. Overall, the Duke quarterback completed 6-of-11 games passes for 103 yards after his two picks.
Duke’s comeback started with a 62-yard reception by Crowder to bring the squad within two scores at 27-14. The 62-yard completion for Connette was the longest of his career and marked Crowder’s sixth career touchdown reception of 50-plus yards.
The Blue Devils, down 30-14 after a Panther field goal, quickly made it a two-point contest with consecutive touchdowns. Connette showed his versatility on a 75-yard drive as the redshirt junior signal caller rushed for 22 yards and threw for 10 more to set up Crowder for a seven-yard dash into the end zone.
Crowder was back at it again after the Duke defense forced Pitt to punt for the first time of the afternoon. The junior punt return specialist caught the 51-yard punt and quickly hit the gap and ran up the Duke sideline into the end zone. The 82-yard return marked the fifth longest in Duke history and Crowder’s second this season, which is tied for the most in single-season history.
Pittsburgh tacked on a final touchdown with 24 seconds remaining in the first half to head into the locker room with a 37-28 advantage.
The Panthers picked up where they left off in the third quarter, adding two more touchdowns for a 51-28 lead. Brandon Braxton put Duke on the board for the first time of the third quarter, hauling in a 75-yard toss from Connette.
Connette, with 192 yards passing heading into Duke’s final drive of the third quarter, turned in his best series of the afternoon to pull the Blue Devils within 10, 51-41, early in the fourth quarter. He completed all of five of his passes for 72 yards and completed the 79-yard drive with a 1-yard scamper into the end zone.
Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage threw for 424 yards and six touchdowns, and wide receivers Tyler Boyd and Devin Street both topped 100 yards receiving and combined for five touchdowns. Tailback James Conner led the Panthers’ run game with 173 yards and a score on the ground.
Duke returns to Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday, Sept. 28 to face non-conference foe Troy in a 3 p.m. tilt.