Clemson had won 21 straight home games entering Saturday, but a flurry of questionable penalties and untimely turnovers spoiled that run and the Tigers’ perfect season as they fell to Pittsburgh, 43-42.
Though it may be best to point to Deshaun Watson’s three interceptions as the reason for Saturay’s anxiety, Clemson fans and Dabo Swinney can't ignore a pair of flags that ultimately led to 14 Pittsburgh points.
A Ben Boulware tackle in the third quarter drew a personal foul flag as the referee felt the Clemson linebacker played beyond the whistle. Replays showed the whistle was blown while Boulware was making the tackle on Dontez Ford.
Twitter reacted accordingly.
The Panthers eventually scored a touchdown on the drive to cut Clemson’s lead to 35-34.
Then in the fourth quarter, Watson’ was picked off on the goal line by Salem Brightwell, who returned the ball all the way to the Clemson 30. If not for a desperation tackle by Mike Williams, Brightwell would have scored easily.
Three plays later, a phantom holding call on third down gave Pittsburg a fresh set of downs. James Connor, on the next play, went 20 yards for a touchdown. A failed two-point conversion left the Panthers behind 42-40 with 5:17 left.
The Tigers failed to convert a fourth-and-1 play on the ensuing drive with 1:02 left. Pitt took over, drove down the field and —Blewitt nailed a 48-yard field goal to escape Death Valley with the win.
The loss spoiled a night in which Watson threw for an ACC record 580 yards. Williams also set a personal best with 15 catches for 202 yars and a touchdown.
Clemson’s chance at the College Football Playoff is severely damaged as they were already considered arguably the weakest of the top four teams. The Tigers have games against Wake Forest and South Carolina remaining on the schedule as well as the ACC title game.