No. 9 Oklahoma State’s passing game pounces on Pitt
PITTSBURGH — If Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph needs some highlights for a Heisman Trophy campaign, he won’t need to look any further than the first half of the No. 9 Cowboys’ 59-21 drubbing of Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Oklahoma State scored on each of its first six drives of the game and jumped out to a 49-14 lead at the half, with most of the damage to the Panthers’ defense coming from Rudolph’s right arm.
He shredded the Pitt secondary for 497 yards and five touchdowns and had four different receivers cross the 100-yard plateau, the first time an FBS team has achieved that feat since 2005. Pitt didn’t get a defensive stop until Rudolph kneeled down to end the first half.
“We wanted to come out and blow the top off this thing, get ahead early,” Rudolph said. “That’s always our approach. Today just really clicked and those guys made plays. A lot of run after the catch yardage. ... Gotta have protection. Hats off to those guys; they did a great job.”
Oklahoma State slot receiver Jalen McCleskey had three touchdowns, including a 48-yard catch-and-run as part of his 162 receiving yards. Dillon Stoner had five catches for 100 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown. Marcell Ateman had the biggest gain of the day with a 69-yard touchdown. He finished with four catches for 109 yards.
“Mason has done a nice job of spreading the ball out,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “When we have good skill guys, he’s responsible for delegating the ball to the people based on what they give us.”
Gundy said the Panthers give extra attention to Biletnikoff Award candidate James Washington, who was held out of the end zone but ended up with 124 yards on five catches.
Pitt was focused on stopping Washington after he racked up 296 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers a year ago. That opened up things for McCleskey and company on the inside.
“We’ve just got to get stronger as a full unit on the defensive back end,” said Pitt cornerback Avonte Maddox, who was primarily tasked with defending Washington. “They did throw it there to the slot a lot.”
When Rudolph wasn’t having downfield success, the Cowboys were able to run the ball. Running back Justice Hill added two scores and finished with 91 yards on 11 carries.
Pitt redshirt senior quarterback Max Browne went 7 of 10 for just 60 yards before being removed in favor of Ben DiNucci in the second quarter.
DiNucci led the team’s two scoring drives, capping one with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Rafael Araujo-Lopes. But DiNucci also threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Justin Phillips. DiNucci finished 13 of 25 for 228 yards.
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said he will have a decision to make this week as to which player will start at Georgia Tech next Saturday.
“I think we’ve got two pretty good quarterbacks,” Narduzzi said. “Do I think we have a great quarterback? No, not right now. Nathan Peterman was a great quarterback walking out of there. You miss guys like that.”
Chawntez Moss scored on a 5-yard rush and was Pitt’s leading rusher with 36 yards on 12 carries. The Pitt running game was mostly bottled up, with starter Qadree Ollison held to 6 yards on seven carries.
The Panthers’ other score came when freshman cornerback Jason Pinnock fell on the ball in the end zone after Oklahoma State punter Zach Sinor fumbled a snap.
NOTES: Oklahoma State QB Tyler Cornelius saw his first extensive action of the season. He went 3 of 5 for 75 yards in relief of Mason Rudolph. ... Cowboys CB Madre Harper was dismissed from the team and WR Tyron Johnson was suspended for the game for violations of team rules. ... Pitt OL Brandon Hodges (undisclosed injury) did not play after leaving the game against Penn State last week in the first half. ... Pitt DE Rashad Weaver made his first career sack. ... Cowboys PK Matt Ammendola kicked a field goal to finish with 11 points. He has had more than 10 points in all three games this season.