The Pitt Panthers and Tennessee Volunteers battled for four hours and five minutes in a lengthy contest that was worth every second. However, Pittsburgh football was defeated 34-27. Here are some takeaways from Pittsburgh’s loss to Tennessee at Acrisure Stadium.

On the opening play of overtime, Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker hit Cedric Tillman for the game-winning touchdown on a second-and-13 from the Pitt 28-yard line. The defense of the Vols then held off Pitt to secure the game.

Take note, however, that the Panthers were playing at that time with backup quarterback Nick Patti after starter Kedon Slovis was injured at halftime.

In the aftermath of this overtime loss, here are three takeaways from Pittsburgh football’s tight defeat to Tennessee.

3. Pitt’s guts were on full display

Pittsburgh football was played against a quick, athletic opponent. Three starters were injured before kickoff, and four more were injured throughout the protracted match. After being shredded in the first half, Pitt’s renowned defensive line came to life for the first time this season in the second half. They held one of the nation’s finest offenses in check.

Despite being unable to put weight on his right ankle at times, backup QB Nick Patti played one of the grittiest halves of football you’ll ever see. He also got a ton of help from Israel Abanikanda, the offensive line, and Jared Wayne’s dependable hands. With their combined efforts, Pitt managed to knot a game they had no business being in.

The Panthers were tough and brave against Tennessee. At many points, I found myself accepting they’d just lose. Each time, however, they made just enough of a play to keep themselves alive. They gave everything they had on that field. And, yes, they lost, but that’s football.

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Pitt has received its fair share of stomach punches over the years, and this is just another chapter in that long saga. Now, while Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi is correct that the Panthers still have a lot of work to do this season, this setback stings and has a real impact on their potential to reach the next level. The College Football Playoff selection committee won’t exactly factor guts into their judgment.

2. Corners were good but inconsistent

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker proved up to snuff. He completed 64 percent of his passes for 325 yards and two TDs. He made some huge plays early on, as the Volunteers completed four passing plays of 20 yards or more in the first half.

However, the Panthers kept him in check in the second and third quarters. The Volunteers didn’t make another spectacular air play until the game’s last possession when Cedric Tillman beat M.J. Devonshire for the game-winner.

Pittsburgh football’s cornerbacks got torched on several huge plays, but that’s the nature of playing corner in a Narduzzi-Bates defense. The highlights made Pitt’s defensive backs look much worse than they actually were.

In truth, A.J. Woods, Marquis Williams, and M.J. Devonshire held their own against Tennessee’s big, powerful receivers. One of the country’s greatest offenses was held to just 27 points in regulation, and their performance after halftime was especially impressive. Now, if the Pitt CBs could just be more consistent…

1. Receivers must step up

As the day progressed, two big drops proved to be game-changing plays. The Panthers were forced to settle for a field goal after a drop on a third and goal pass to Konata Mumpfield lost them four points. Later in the first half, Kedon Slovis hit Bub Means in the endzone on his hands, but Means couldn’t drag it in. He tipped it to Trevon Flowers of Tennessee, who intercepted it and snatched seven points from the Panthers.

Pitt receivers gained 156 yards via the air versus the Volunteers, with Jared Wayne accounting for 82 of those yards. Wayne was hit seven times, while the rest of the receiving corps was hit nine times. Simply said, the Panthers require more from that bunch, especially in high-pressure situations. In an overtime game, those errors pile up and might be the difference between winning and losing, being undefeated, being ranked in the top 10, or dropping out of the top 20.