GAMEDAY College Football

Western Michigan 44, Pittsburgh 41

AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH - There's a montage Western Michigan football coach Tim Lester makes his team watch relentlessly. It includes a flash of the letter "R," which stands for "respond."

That's not to be confused with "react." A reaction is emotional. A "response," according to Lester, is calculated. It's measured. It's well-thought-out.

"It's our program's No. 1 cry," Lester said.

One that reverberated all over Heinz Field on Saturday as the Broncos stunned Pittsburgh 44-41 for the program's victory over a Power Five program during Lester's five-year tenure.

Time and again the Broncos (2-1) would sprint in front only to have the Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett throw a touchdown pass to shift momentum. And time and again Western Michigan quarterback Kaleb Eleby would snap the ball, make the right decision in Lester's run/pass-option offense and lead a touchdown drive to go back in front.

"We're going to be in a lot of close games, it's part of the deal," Lester said. "And this will be a big one. And hopefully, we can continue to respond because it does matter in big games."

It's the kind of response the Panthers (2-1) delivered a week ago in a stirring win on the road against Tennessee. While they stressed they would take all the steps to avoid a letdown, it happened anyway. Pitt fell behind by 13 early and while they drew even three times, the defense couldn't get the stop necessary to give Pickett a chance to take control of the game for good.

Eleby fought off a bout with cramps that forced him to take an IV at halftime to throw for 336 yards and three touchdowns. La'Darius Jefferson ran for 78 yards and two scores and Western Michigan rolled up 516 yards while holding the ball for 40 minutes, including the last 3:48 after Pickett's sixth touchdown pass drew Pitt within three.

"Running our system and getting the ball at the end with four minutes left and running it out is no better feeling, you know?" Lester said.

Pickett finished 382 yards to move past Hall of Famer Dan Marino into second-place on the school's all-time passing list but Pitt turned it over three times, allowed Pickett to be sacked on fourth-and-6 in the fourth quarter and spent most of the afternoon playing chase against a Mid-American Conference team that lost by 30 at Michigan two weeks ago.

"Felt like we didn't have any juice or energy today," Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said.

Not when it really mattered anyway.

Eleby's 54-yard touchdown pass to Corey Crooms that put Western Michigan up 34-27 in the third quarter was a microcosm of Pitt's afternoon. Panther safety Erick Hallett appeared to have Crooms wrapped up for a modest gain only to have teammate Brandon Hill run into him, allowing Crooms to spin away and race to the end zone.

"Defensively we couldn't get off the field," Narduzzi said.

Pitt quickly tied it on Pickett's second touchdown pass of the day to tight end Lucas Krull but the Broncos responded, as they did each and every time the Panthers threatened to take control.

Eleby led a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Jefferson bulling over from 3 yards out to make it 41-34. Western Michigan sacked Pickett on fourth-and-6 to snuff out a Pitt response and Parker Sampson's 29-yard field goal gave the Broncos just enough cushion.

Needing a stop after Pickett's final touchdown pass, Pitt didn't get one. Western Michigan churned out a pair of first downs then ran to celebrate with the small group of fans who made the 377-mile trip from Kalamazoo, Michigan while the Panthers trudged to the locker room following another baffling loss.

"It's not an ACC game," Narduzzi said. "All our goals are still ahead of us, and it's one ballgame."

Scoring Summary
First Quarter WestMIPitt
Pitt TD 8:08 Jordan Addison 67 yd pass from Kenny Pickett (Sam Scarton kick) 0 7
WestMI TD 3:42 Sean Tyler 1 yd run (Parker Sampson kick) 7 7
WestMI TD 1:28 La'Darius Jefferson 1 yd run (Parker Sampson kick) 14 7
Second Quarter WestMIPitt
WestMI TD 12:01 Skyy Moore 30 yd pass from Kaleb Eleby (missed kick) 20 7
Pitt TD 8:54 Lucas Krull 2 yd pass from Kenny Pickett (Sam Scarton kick) 20 14
Pitt TD 7:25 Jordan Addison 23 yd pass from Kenny Pickett (missed kick) 20 20
WestMI TD 4:17 Sean Tyler 5 yd pass from Kaleb Eleby (Parker Sampson kick) 27 20
Pitt TD 1:07 Jordan Addison 28 yd pass from Kenny Pickett (Sam Scarton kick) 27 27
Third Quarter WestMIPitt
WestMI TD 7:31 Corey Crooms 54 yd pass from Kaleb Eleby (Parker Sampson kick) 34 27
Pitt TD 5:00 Lucas Krull 24 yd pass from Kenny Pickett (Sam Scarton kick) 34 34
Fourth Quarter WestMIPitt
WestMI TD 14:10 La'Darius Jefferson 3 yd run (Parker Sampson kick) 41 34
WestMI FG 5:37 Parker Sampson 29 yd FG 44 34
Pitt TD 3:48 Jaylon Barden 22 yd pass from Kenny Pickett (Sam Scarton kick) 44 41
Team Stats
  Western Michigan Pittsburgh
First downs 28 25
  Rushing 5 7
  Passing 19 14
  Penalty 4 4
3rd Down Efficiency 7-17, 41% 1-8, 13%
4th down efficiency 1-2, 50% 1-3, 33%
Rushes-Yards 48-160 24-75
Passing Yards 357 415
Return Yards 53 56
Completions-Attempts-Int 26-38-0 25-34-1
Sacks-Yards Lost 3--28 2--17
Punts 5 3
Punts-Average 46 37.3
Fumbles Lost 0-0 3-2
Penalties - Yards 11-117 8-82
Time of Possession 40:15 19:45
Western Michigan Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
K. Eleby 23 35 337 3 0
J. Salopek 3 3 20 0 0
Pittsburgh Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
K. Pickett 23 31 382 6 1
N. Patti 2 3 33 0 0
Western Michigan Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
S. Tyler 14 84 6.0 1
L. Jefferson 22 78 3.5 2
J. Kincaide 5 18 3.6 0
K. Eleby 7 -20 -2.9 0
Pittsburgh Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
K. Pickett 10 49 4.9 0
V. Davis 11 38 3.5 0
M. Stovall 1 7 7.0 0
I. Abanikanda 1 -1 -1.0 0
Western Michigan Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
C. Crooms 8 161 20.1 1
S. Moore 11 124 11.3 1
J. Hall 2 52 26.0 0
S. Tyler 3 11 3.7 1
A. Torres 2 9 4.5 0
Pittsburgh Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
J. Addison 6 124 20.7 3
J. Wayne 5 100 20.0 0
J. Barden 2 60 30.0 1
M. Stovall 3 41 13.7 0
L. Krull 3 36 12.0 2
V. Davis 3 23 7.7 0
T. Mack 2 23 11.5 0
G. Bartholomew 1 8 8.0 0
Western Michigan Interceptions
Player Int Yards
D. Jackson 1 8
Pittsburgh Interceptions
Player Int Yards
Western Michigan Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
N. Mihalic 5 230 46.0
Pittsburgh Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
K. Christodoulou 3 112 37.3
Western Michigan Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
Pittsburgh Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
M. Stovall 2 13 6.5
Western Michigan Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
B. Nunnelly 2 45 22.5
Pittsburgh Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
M. Stovall 2 43 21.5
Western Michigan Missed FG
Player Length
P. Sampson 43
Pittsburgh Missed FG
Player Length