Michigan State scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to snatch the Peach Bowl from Pitt.
The No. 10 Spartans, who were 3.5-point favorites at BetMGM, entered the final frame trailing 21-10. But touchdown catches by Connor Heyward and Jayden Reed in the final nine minutes of the game and a late pick-six gave MSU a 31-21 win over a No. 12 Pitt team down to its third-string quarterback.
Reed's TD grab with 2:51 left put Michigan State on top for the first time since the second quarter. He was interfered with on the play and still went up to make a fantastic catch for a 24-21 lead.
Jayden Reed climbed the ladder AND rocked the baby 👶 pic.twitter.com/s2vETumzPL
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) December 31, 2021
The chances of Pitt making a comeback in the final three minutes were slim after the offense had just one first down after halftime before Reed's TD. With star QB Kenny Pickett opting out of the Peach Bowl to prepare for the 2022 NFL draft, backup QB Nick Patti started the game for the Panthers. Patti then injured his left shoulder while scoring a touchdown in the first quarter and left the game. He returned to the sideline with his arm in a sling and the quarterbacking duties fell to QB Davis Beville.
With the help of Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison, Beville led the Panthers into Michigan State territory and into position for a potential game-tying field goal with 36 seconds to go. But Beville was picked off by Cal Haladay, who returned the ball 78 yards for a game-sealing touchdown.
— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTB_Vids_YT) December 31, 2021
While Pitt was without Pickett, Michigan State played without star running back Kenneth Walker III. The Doak Walker Award winner also opted out to prep for the draft, and Michigan State missed his production dearly.
The Spartans had just 56 yards rushing on 36 carries. Jordon Simmons had 16 carries for 23 yards and was Michigan State’s leading rusher.
That lack of success forced Michigan State QB Payton Thorne to throw the ball 50 times. Thorne wasn’t great — he had a few bad throws — but threw for 354 yards and three TDs.
Twelve of his 29 completions went to either Reed or Jalen Nailor. Nailor had six catches for 108 yards while Reed had six catches for 80 yards and caught two touchdowns.
The win means Michigan State finishes the season at 11-2 and has 11 wins in a season for the first time since 2015. It’s the sixth season in school history in which Michigan State has won at least 11 games.
Pitt drops to 11-3 with the loss. The Panthers have only won 11 games in a season five times and a win in the Peach Bowl would have given Pitt its first 12-win season since 1976 when the Panthers went undefeated under Johnny Majors.