PITTSBURGH (AP) Nate Yarnell stumbled upon a piano in the Pittsburgh team hotel the night before his second start for the Panthers. The redshirt sophomore quarterback sat down and played a little classical number to help calm his nerves.

Might be time for Yarnell to invest in a little portable keyboard to take on the road in 2024, especially if starting becomes a regular thing. Which it very well might.

Yarnell threw for 207 yards and a touchdown and ran for another as the Panthers pulled away from Boston College 24-16 on Thursday night, giving the program a welcome moment of optimism amid a sea of disappointment. Yarnell completed 11 of 19 passes while looking poised and confident after finally getting a shot after Phil Jurkovec and then Christian Veilleux struggled.

“I’m just so grateful for the opportunity,” Yarnell said. "I came to Pitt. I love Pitt. I really enjoyed getting on the field.”

It sure looked like it. Yarnell dived over the goal line for a 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter then hit Bub Means for a 61-yard catch and run score in the third quarter as the Panthers (3-8, 2-5 ACC) ended a four-game losing streak.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi told Yarnell he was starting on Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after a loss to Syracuse. Unlike Yarnell's first start - a victory at Western Michigan in 2022 in which the Panthers leaned heavily on the run - this time, Yarnell had the full playbook at his disposal. He rushed for 24 yards, mostly on designed runs, and looked to get the ball downfield, an issue all year for Pitt.

Rodney Hammond ran for a career-high 145 yards for the Panthers, including a 66-yard sprint to the end zone with 4:29 left that pushed Pitt's lead to eight after the Eagles had pulled to within a point.

“That was cheetah speed right there,” Hammond said. “Nobody catching me.”

It's been a lost season for the Panthers, who will fail to reach a bowl game for the second time in head coach Pat Narduzzi's nine years with the program. Yarnell's energetic play provided a small boost to a team in need of one.

“I feel like this year is a learning experience,” said Hammond, a junior. "You can’t always expect like the highest level." There’s going to be ups and downs. This was a down year. Next year is going to be an up year.”

Thomas Castellanos passed for 171 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions and ran for 33 more for Boston College (6-5, 3-4), who have now lost two straight following a five-game winning streak.

Castellanos found Lewis Bond for a 24-yard score midway through the third quarter to put the Eagles in front but also threw an interception near the goal line early in the fourth to end a scoring threat. His last-gasp heave in the final seconds was picked off by Pitt safety M.J. Devonshire, allowing Devonshire and the rest of the Panthers' senior class to celebrate their final home game in style.

Kye Robichaux ran for 118 yards for Boston College but the ACC's leading rushing attack was held in check for most of the night after some early success.

The Eagles didn't help themselves by being called for eight penalties, including a holding penalty midway through the third quarter that took away a run that would have put the ball at the Pitt 1. Boston College settled for Liam Connor's third field goal to make it 17-16.

The Panthers needed just two plays to extend the lead, with the longest run of Hammond's career serving as an exclamation point.


Boston College: The Eagles put their season back together with a five-game run built on a dominant ground game. That momentum has stalled over the last two weeks. Pitt's defense tightened after a solid opening drive by the Eagles and Castellanos - one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the country - had trouble finding time to throw while being sacked six times.

Pitt: Yarnell earned another start next week at Duke. While Pitt will likely see what's available in the portal, Yarnell has thrust himself into the conversation for 2024.


Boston College: Ends the regular season when it hosts Miami on Nov. 24.

Pitt: Finishes a disappointing season at Duke on Nov. 25.


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