DURHAM (AP) — Duke kept putting up points. Just not enough of them.
The Blue Devils lost the second-highest-scoring game in Atlantic Coast Conference history, a 58-55 loss to league newcomer Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Jamison Crowder scored touchdowns three different ways and Brandon Connette threw for four scores and rushed for 101 yards and two more TDs, including one to bring the Blue Devils (2-2, 0-2) within three points in the final minutes.
Duke fell behind by at least 20 points twice in this one.
“There was never a moment that you thought that the team was ready to shut down,” Cutcliffe said.
Connette’s 4-yard scoring run with 3:17 left pulled the Blue Devils to within three. Pitt recovered the onside kick, and Tom Savage’s 15-yard pass to Kevin Weatherspoon on third-and-7 helped the Panthers run out the clock.
“That’s what you dream for as a quarterback — third down, you can win the game with a first down and (Weatherspoon) came up with a big catch,” Savage said.
Savage tied a league record with six touchdown passes — three of them to freshman Tyler Boyd — and finished with a career-high 424 yards on 23-of-33 passing.
Duke, which allowed Georgia Tech to throw for four TDs last week, has given up a total 10 touchdown passes in conference play.
The teams combined for 1,130 total yards, and the 111 combined points were a touchdown shy of the record set last November in Georgia Tech’s 68-50 win at North Carolina.
“Basically, everybody on the offense scored,” Boyd said.
The Panthers (2-1, 1-1) never trailed in their first ACC victory and first league road game despite receiving plenty of scares down the stretch from a persistent Duke team.
“Today was a true test, and I think it was a good indication of where we’re at,” receiver Devin Street said. “Wins and losses come a dime a dozen, but effort can’t be matched, and we had effort out there.”
Savage surpassed both of the major career highs he set for Rutgers in 2009 — or, two transfers ago — before halftime of this one while becoming the first ACC player to throw for six scores since Virginia’s Dan Ellis and Florida State’s Chris Weinke both did it on Nov. 13, 1999.
He had plenty of help from his big playmakers: Street had touchdown catches of 67 and 21 yards and finished with a career-high 166 yards receiving. Boyd scored on catches of 69, 27 and 14 yards to go along with his season-high 154 yards.
“The new sheriff in town,” Street said of Boyd.
But every time it looked like the Panthers finally gave themselves some breathing room, the Blue Devils stormed right back.
Connette pulled Duke to within 10 points with 13:36 left when he threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Braxton and then rushed 1 yard for a TD to make it 51-41.
But he threw interceptions on both of Duke’s next possessions, with linebacker Anthony Gonzalez returning the last one 33 yards for what seemed like the backbreaking touchdown with 8:30 remaining.
Connette then started the Blue Devils’ final comeback attempt with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Braxton Deaver with 5:30 left, making it 58-48.
Duke forced a punt attempt and got the ball at the Pitt 30 after punter Matt Yoklic had trouble with a long snap. That set up Connette’s last touchdown run.
Connette finished 21 of 32 for 323 yards and also had a 16-yard touchdown pass to Max McCaffrey. The Blue Devils gained 532 yards but found it nearly impossible to stop a Pitt offense that entered at No. 66 in the Bowl Subdivision with an average of 412 total yards.
Crowder had 279 all-purpose yards. He rushed 7 yards for a touchdown, caught a 62-yard TD pass from Connette and brought back a punt 82 yards for a score to pull Duke to 30-28 late in the first half.
“We’re a family. We’re going to stick together. … We definitely had to pull behind the defense today,” Crowder said. “We’re just one big family and we want to support the defense.”