CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 04: Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Panthers celebrates after winning the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium on December 04, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Logan Whitton/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE (N.C.) — Erick HALETT II saw the receiver run to his side and knew that the ball was coming towards him.

He ran in front of the team to grab a jump interception, then began sprinting towards the end zone holding the ball in his right hand. As he crossed the goal line, he extended the ball for the touchdown that changed No. 17 Pittsburgh’s lead was transformed into a win.

This was the highlight of a night filled with them, and it enabled the Panthers to win the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship for the first time in program history.

Hallett’s 19 yard score was one of four interceptions that Pittsburgh made to beat No. 18 Wake Forest, 45-21 in Saturday’s ACC championship game. This came just a few weeks after A.J. Woods’ 75-yard interception return was just 3 yards away from scoring the final score in the fourth quarter. It all happened as the Panthers repelled the Demon Deacons’ high-scoring offense and won the game for the Panthers. They also took the Panthers to their first league championship since 2013.

Woods stated that in the second quarter, they used the take-it mentality. “Take it was the buzzword on our board this week. Champions must do this, so they take it.

The Demon Deacons lost all their momentum when the Panthers (11-2), took it away from them abruptly.

After giving up touchdowns on three of its first-quarter possessions Wake Forest was held scoreless for the last 13 drives. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh went after Sam Hartman for five tackles to stop the Demon Deacons from controlling their tempo.

Coach Pat Narduzzi stated, “They bowed down and we played some fantastic coverage.” “Our players made plays on the ball. We probably shook them up in the backfield and made them a bit more antsy. …. They were stopped by our defense.

Hallett was the game MVP, with two interceptions.

Wake Forest (10-3), was back in the ACC championship game for the first-time since their 2006 title win. The Demon Deacons ended up with 295 yards total, with only 109 coming in the final quarter.

“It was just difficult on us,” Jaquarii Roberson, Hartman’s target for Hallett’s TD return, said. “Pitt was playing great defense, and we just couldn’t get a flow started.

This made it easier for Kenny Pickett, the star quarterback, and the offense. Pickett was responsible for three touchdowns. Israel Abanikanda ran two second-half touchdowns. One after Woods’ return, which is the longest in title game history’s 17-year-old history.

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson stated, “It’s certainly not like we played an average team of football and wasted all these chances.” They were great. Many of the errors made today were due to Pitt’s greatness, and I give that credit to those guys.

This game was a break from a long tradition. Clemson defeated a Coastal Division champion to win another league title and a trip to the College Football Playoff. This game was a rematch of the Atlantic Division championship that Florida State and Clemson won ten years ago. Wake Forest ended this run this year.

The game started with four touchdown drives by both teams. Pickett’s stunning 58-yard scoring run was the highlight. He stutter-stepped towards the 40 and then ran around pulling up defenders for the remainder of the distance.


Wake Forest was leading 21-14 when Hartman caught Taylor Morin on a contested TD pass near the left pylon. After that, Pittsburgh’s defense began to get to Hartman more often and the secondary that was under early duress began to resist those deep throws.

Pitt led 24-21 at the break with a 41-yard field goal by Sam Scarton. The Panthers were then able to take a two-possession lead when Abanikanda scored late in the third from 12 yards around the right side.

“We’re gritty,” Hallett said. “We don’t accept no for an answer.”


Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons couldn’t add yet another milestone to a season that had been a special one for them under their eighth year coach. This included the highest AP Top 25 ranking ever in program history (No. The program’s best start ever (8-0) was achieved in November.

Pittsburgh: In 2018, the Panthers reached the ACC championship game before falling to Clemson in a resounding loss. After sharing the Big East title in 2004/2010, the Panthers will be leaving Charlotte with their first ACC title.


Hartman ran for one and threw for another during the first period. Hartman was suffering another nightmare performance on a field 20 minutes away from Cornelius, his hometown. Hartman ended last year with four interceptions in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl loss against Wisconsin. He then threw for 213 yards and was out with 8:09.

Clawson stated, “Sometimes you have to fall behind. You force things.” He added: “This doesn’t take away the year that was his.”


Pickett broke a tie for the most career TD passes with Dan Marino (now 81) and surpassed Deshaun Watson’s 2016 single season league record touchdown passes of 42 (now 42).


Both programs will need to wait until they find out where they will play in a bowl match.