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Houston pulls epic comeback against Pitt in Armed Forces Bowl

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Raymond Carlin III / USA Today Sports
Deontay Greenberry scored two of Houston's four fourth-quarter touchdowns in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Pat Narduzzi's old team pulled off a big comeback Thursday in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas. His new team gagged away a big lead Friday and was the victim of an epic comeback a few miles away in Fort Worth.


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Narduzzi's last day as Michigan State's defensive coordinator was Jan. 1, when the Spartans rallied from 20 down to beat Baylor, 42-41. He will take over at Pitt on Saturday, and he unfortunately had to watch Friday as the Panthers surrendered 22 points in the final 3:41 and lost 35-34 to Houston.

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Pitt led 31-6 early in the fourth quarter and enjoyed a 34-13 advantage after a field goal by Chris Blewitt with 6:14 left. But then it all fell apart. Houston, which rolled up 293 yards in the fourth quarter alone, first narrowed the lead to 34-20 with 3:41 left on an 8-yard TD catch by star junior wide receiver Deontay Greenberry.

Houston recovered the ensuing onside kick and quickly moved 52 yards for another score that trimmed the lead to 34-27 with 1:58 left.

The Cougars then recovered another onside kick, and Greenberry made it pay off when he hauled in a 25-yard TD pass with 59 seconds left. Interim coach David Gibbs -- the son of long-time NFL assistant Alex Gibbs -- went for two, and Greenberry made that decision pay off, too, grabbing the pass to give Houston an improbable 35-34 lead.

Pitt moved to midfield but lost the ball on downs. Panthers sophomore wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who had nine receptions for 112 yards, dropped a perfectly thrown ball with seven seconds left that would've set up Pitt with a potential game-winning field goal from about 40 yards.


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Pitt finished with 449 yards, and sophomore tailback James Conner ran for 90 yards and two TDs. He finished the season with 1,765 yards and 26 TDs, numbers that put him sixth and third, respectively, in those categories in the nation. He and Boyd give Narduzzi solid offensive building blocks for next season.

Greenberry finished with 85 yards and two touchdowns on four receptions, an impressive outing, considering his disappointing regular season. Greenberry finished the season with 72 receptions, six TDs and 841 yards, a far cry from last season, when he had 82 catches, 11 TDs and 1,202 yards. Houston threw the ball much more effectively last season, and it will be interesting to see how new Houston coach Tom Herman -- currently finishing out this season as Ohio State's offensive coordinator -- will use Greenberry next season.

Houston sophomore quarterback Greg Ward Jr. threw for 274 yards and three TDs, and also rushed for 92 yards. He looks as if he will be a good fit for Herman's spread offense.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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