DURHAM, North Carolina — Pittsburgh put together its best game of the season — and certainly its most lopsided win.
Nate Peterman tied a career high with three touchdown passes to lead Pitt past Duke 31-13 on Saturday.
Peterman was 13 of 23 for 180 yards with touchdowns of 11 yards to Zach Challingsworth, 3 yards to J.P. Holtz and 5 yards to Dontez Ford.
Qadree Ollison added 111 yards rushing with a late 1-yard TD to help Pitt (7-3, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) snap a two-game losing streak and keep its slim Coastal Division hopes alive, though the Panthers need some help from No. 17 North Carolina, the division leader.
Pitt, which hadn't beaten a team by more than 17 points all year, held Duke to 78 total yards in the second half.
"That was about a complete a win as you can have," first-year coach Pat Narduzzi said.
Parker Boehme was 23 of 42 for 248 yards with an interception and a 1-yard touchdown run in his first career start. Ross Martin kicked two field goals for Duke (6-4, 3-3), which has lost three straight — its longest losing streak since 2012.
"No reason to sugarcoat it: (In the) second half, we didn't represent any part of who we want to be," coach David Cutcliffe said. "We got outblocked, outtackled, outhit. Their playmakers made critical plays at critical times. We didn't."
This could have been the final stage of a three-team round robin that could have decided the Coastal, but the surging Tar Heels pretty much took care of that by beating Pitt and Blue Devils in the past two weeks.
Duke's downturn started with that controversial last-second loss to Miami in which the Hurricanes lateraled the final kickoff eight times before returning it for the winning touchdown that the ACC later determined shouldn't have counted.
In those three losses, the Blue Devils have allowed averages of 514 total yards and 42 points.
"Are we fragile? Quite possibly," Cutcliffe said. "We have to be stronger than that. I'm not denying that. That enters my mind, but then I challenge myself, why haven't I equipped us better than that. We can not be consumed by that mentality. No way."
The Panthers' three losses have come to teams ranked 17th or higher in the current AP Top 25. Six straight games had been decided by seven or fewer points until No. 6 Notre Dame beat them 42-30 last week.
"Every week, we take the same attitude — you can't be up and down like a yo-yo," Narduzzi said. "You can't say, 'Oh, we've got to come back this week.' Every week, we're coming back, whether it's a win or a loss. Two tough losses to two really good football teams, and our kids responded."
Pitt scored on four straight possessions, breaking a 10-all halftime tie with touchdowns on its first three drives of the second half. None of those TD drives after halftime was shorter than eight plays or 74 yards.
Peterman, who also threw for three scores against Georgia Tech, hit Holtz to make it 17-10. On the next series, he set up his short scoring pass to Ford with a slick 33-yard throw to Challingsworth.
Ollison then made it 31-13 with his short scoring run with 11:25 remaining.
The only points Duke managed during that stretch were fluky — Martin's 51-yarder hit the crossbar and bounced straight up before trickling through the uprights.
Martin also converted from 27 yards out to give Duke its only lead at 10-7 late in the second quarter. Chris Blewitt countered by kicking a 51-yarder with 43 seconds before the break.
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org