Panthers fall behind early, lose to Miami 41-31

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“We were talking all week that we’re not going to let the cold affect us at all,” Miami center Jared Wheeler said. “We’re tired of everyone telling us ‘Oh, it’s cold, Miami isn’t going to do well.'”

Hardly. Morris completed 17 of 28 passes for 296 yards and three scores as Miami piled up 476 total yards. The Panthers racked up 501, but most of them came in the second half with the Hurricanes nursing a big lead.

Isaac Bennett ran for a 141 yards and a score for Pitt but the Panthers never got closer than 10 points over the game’s final 48 minutes.

“It was frustrating,” Pitt defensive back Jason Hendricks said. “You hope things like that disappear because you practice them so much. Thing happen, and you try to bounce back but it was too late.”

Pitt’s only real surge came when a 23-yard touchdown pass from Savage to Rachid Ibrahim pulled the Panthers within 34-24 with 7:36 left.

Rather than nurse the lead, Miami attacked. Morris deftly guided a seven-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard flip to Asante Cleveland.

The win took some of the sting out of a late season swoon. Miami ended a three-game losing streak last week against Virginia then backed it up by looking very much like the dominant force it was during a 7-0 start.

Hurns continued one of greatest seasons by a Miami receiver in school history by pulling in a 66-yard pass to set up a 7-yard touchdown run by Gus Edwards. Hurns has 1,138 yards receiving to put Leonard Hankerson’s 1,156-yard effort in 2010 in serious jeopardy.

The Panthers, tepidly trying to avoid its third straight 6-6 finish, didn’t exactly put up a fight when the game was up for grabs.

Garrett Kidd jumped on a fumble by Pitt’s Lafayette Pitts on the opening kickoff and Morris needed just three plays to hit Coley for a 32-yard catch and run to put Miami in front 7-0. The Panthers went nowhere on its next drive and when Tyriq McCord partially blocked Matt Yoklic’s punt the Hurricanes had the ball at the Pitt 42.

Morris and Coley needed only two plays to make it 14-0, as a Coley turned a quick screen into a pair of missed tackles and a 34-yard sprint down the sideline for a score.

Bennett responded with a 45-yard touchdown run, but it was one of the few true defensive mistakes by the Hurricanes, whose ineptitude during the second half of the season cost them a shot at the national title.

Still, hopes for a rematch with No. 2 Florida State in the ACC title game remain alive while the Panthers wait for a bowl bid that won’t be quite the prime destination it could have been with a victory in their home finale.

“We are 6-6 now,” Pitt linebacker Anthony Gonzalez said. “We obviously have made mistakes frequently. We have to correct them, work hard and try to get a bowl game win and finish over .550.”

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