WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Kenny Pickett threw a career-best three touchdown passes, all in the second half, and Pittsburgh beat Wake Forest 34-13 on Saturday to clinch its first berth in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
Pickett finished 23 of 30 for a career-high 316 yards with scoring passes of 4 yards to Rafael Araujo-Jones, 63 yards to Taysir Mack and 23 yards to Maurice Ffrench.
Darrin Hall had a 2-yard touchdown run and left tackle Stefano Millin added a late 6-yard scoring run for the Panthers (7-4, 6-1), who won their fourth straight — their longest winning streak in two years. They will play in their first title game since joining the league in 2013, taking on No. 2 Clemson on Dec. 1 in Charlotte.
“We’re one step closer to where we want to go,” coach Pat Narduzzi said.
Jamie Newman was 15 of 30 for 206 yards with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Alex Bachman for the Demon Deacons (5-6, 2-5), who must beat Duke next week to qualify for their third straight bowl.
Nick Sciba kicked two field goals, including a 20-yarder with 12:30 to play that made it 20-13. Pickett and the Panthers then methodically went 78 yards in 11 plays and chewed up more than 5 minutes before the sophomore quarterback hit Ffrench on a post pattern for the score with 7:27 left that effectively sealed it.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers climbed the Coastal Division standings with their running game, which ranks second only to Georgia Tech in the ACC with an average of nearly 257 yards. This was only the fourth time this season they were held to fewer than 200 yards rushing, but Pickett proved Pitt can move it through the air, too.
Wake Forest: One question hanging over the Demon Deacons centers on coach Dave Clawson’s decision to kick two short field goals. Sciba’s first kick on the first possession came on fourth-and-inches from the 15, and the second came on a fourth-and-goal from the 2 immediately after Pitt went up 20-10. But the real issue is that, of the Demon Deacons’ first five possessions of the second half, four of them were three-and-outs that lasted less than 90 seconds.
“Defensively, we couldn’t get off the field,” Clawson said. “We ended up getting worn down a little bit. . We didn’t make the plays we had to make on offense.”
Pittsburgh: Finishes the regular season next Saturday at Miami.
Wake Forest: Wraps up the regular season next Saturday at instate rival Duke.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25