Running back A.J Davis took a direct snap, handed to receiver Aaron Matthews, who threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Kenny Pickett.
“Credit them, they found a way to be plus-one on the scoreboard at the end,” he said. “I’m proud of how our kids competed an d played. I don’t think we started out as fast and did things you can’t do on the road if you want to be a good team. But we continued to compete, but this one’s going to hurt for a while.
“I told the guys they can descend from this and fall apart, or grow together as a team. This defines the week but it won’t define our entire journey this year.”
It ended a game that featured many ebbs and flows, for both teams. Pittsburgh (2-2) jumped out to a 21-0 lead halfway through the second quarter on a blocked punt, a score that would loom large at the end.
The Knights, winners of 27 straight in the regular season coming into Saturday thanks to a high-powered offense, leaned on it to score the next 31 points.
They got an Adrian Killins 11-yard touchdown run and a Dylan Barnas field goal to narrow the gap to 21-10 at the half, then roared out of the locker room and scored three touchdowns in a nine-minute span to take a 31-21 lead. Freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel and receiver Gabe Davis connected on scoring throws of 11 and 10 yards, and in between Otis Anderson scored on an 87-yard punt return.
But Pitt answered back on a five-play 75-yard touchdown drive that made it 31-28, and UCF, needing to find the end zone to make it a two-score game again, only got three points on its next two drives, getting stopped on a fourth-down run on the first and settling for a 28-yard Barnas field goal with 4:36 left that only made it 34-28.
Pitt then proved that a fourth-quarter lead of less than seven points isn’t really a lead.
Instead of feeling good about all the Knights accomplished over the last two seasons and three games, Anderson said the locker room was full of mad players.
“Words can’t explain. I don’t like losing, especially it being one point,” he said. “One play, one yard, there’s something we missed out there. They had answers for our plays.”
“We felt it, the pressure to be perfect, but we tried not to pay attention to it. We weren’t playing free.”
UCF can start a new streak next week back at home when Connecticut, the team’s first American Athletic Conference opponent, on Saturday at 7 p.m. Despite the loss, the Knights should be overwhelming favorites over the Huskies.