Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett threw for 154 yards and accounted for three touchdowns to back up Maurice Ffrench’s 91-yard touchdown on the game’s opening kickoff as the host Panthers beat the Albany Great Danes 33-7 in the season opener for both teams at Heinz Field on Saturday.
Ffrench also rushed for a touchdown in the first quarter and wide receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes caught 3- and 42-yard touchdown passes from Pickett in the second quarter as Pitt took a 33-7 lead into the half.
Pickett, a sophomore, completed 16 of 22 passes, including all 13 of his attempts in the first half. He picked up where he left off after accounting for 253 yards and three touchdowns in a 24-14 victory over then-No.2 Miami, Fla., in the final game of the 2017 season, his first career start.
Albany quarterback Vincent Testaverde completed 18 of 29 passes for 263 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions in his first start since 2014, when he was a true freshman at Texas Tech. A fifth-year senior, Testaverde is the son of former Miami, Fla., Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Vinny Testaverde.
Araujo-Lopes caught three passes for 50 yards and Qadree Ollison rushed for 73 yards on seven carries as the Panthers had 238 yards rushing and 407 yards total offense.
Albany junior wide receiver Dev Holmes had nine catches for 148 yards a touchdown.
Junior tailback Elijah Ibitokun-Harris had 14 carries for 57 yards rushing for the Great Danes after missing all but one game in 2017 because of a knee injury. Ibitokun-Harris led the FCS Colonial Athletic Association with 1,401 yards rushing in 2016, and he scored 16 touchdowns.
Pickett scored on a 5-yard run on Pitt’s’ first offensive series to give the Panthers a 13-0 lead less than four minutes into the game. Damar Hamlin intercepted a Testaverde pass at the 2-yard line and returned it 79 yards to the Great Danes’ 19 to set up the drive.
Ffrench scored on a 9-yard run for a 19-0 lead before Testaverde hit Holmes on a 9-yard touchdown pass in the final two minutes of the first quarter to make it 19-7. Araujo-Lopes’ two scoring receptions later in the quarter ending the scoring.
Pitt is 16-1 against FCS opponents, its lone loss coming against Youngstown State in the 2012 season opener, 31-17.
—Field Level Media