Kaleb Eleby threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns and Western Michigan stunned Pittsburgh 44-41 on Saturday.
La’Darius Jefferson ran for 78 yards and two scores for the Broncos (2-1), who came into Heinz Field as a 15-point underdog and left it with their first victory over a Power 5 school in five years.
Kenny Pickett tossed six touchdowns for the Panthers (2-1) and threw for 382 yards to move past Hall of Famer Dan Marino into second-place on the school’s all-time passing list but Pitt fell flat a week after a stirring victory on the road at Tennessee.
Western Michigan rolled up 516 yards of total offense and held the ball for 40 minutes.
Pitt did its best to help the Broncos along the way. Eleby’s 54-yard touchdown pass to Corey Crooms that put Western Michigan up 34-27 in the third quarter came after Panther defensive backs Erick Hallett II and Brandon Hill collided, allowing Crooms to spin away and race to the end zone.
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.
Pickett’s sixth touchdown pass — which tied Tom Savage for the second-most in a game in school history — brought the Panthers within three with 3:48 to play.
Needing a stop, Pitt didn’t get one. Western Michigan churned out a pair of first downs to run out the clock. The Broncos celebrated by running to the small group of fans who made the 377-mile trip from Kalamazoo while the Panthers trudged to the locker room following another baffling loss.
Western Michigan: The Broncos, picked to finish third in the MAC’s Western Division, seem to have recovered just fine from that opening week blowout loss to Michigan.
Pitt: The schedule was set up for the Panthers to be on a roll heading into ACC play next month. And while Pitt has the firepower to contend in the typically wide-open ACC Coastal Division, given a chance to change the national perception of the program, Pitt collapsed. Again.
Western Michigan: finishes up nonconference play next Saturday at home against San Jose State.
Pitt: hosts New Hampshire next weekend in one last tune-up before beginning its quest for an Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division title.