Kenny Pickett hit Maurice Ffrench for a 74-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter, and the host Pitt Panthers overcame a lethargic opening 15 minutes to beat the Ohio Bobcats 20-10 in college football’s earliest kickoff on Saturday.
Pitt avoided what would have been its first 0-2 start in seven years.
After the teams combined for 132 yards of offense and just three points in the first quarter, the Panthers (1-1) accumulated more than half of that on one snap. With Pittsburgh up 3-0, Pickett stepped up the pocket and threw off-balance to Ffrench, who caught the ball near midfield then weaved through the secondary to make it 10-0 just 13 seconds into the quarter.
Ffrench, a senior, finished the game with 10 catches for 138 yards and the score. Pickett, a junior who threw a career-high 41 passes in the Panthers’ season-opening 30-14 loss to Virginia last week, was 26 of 37 for 321 yards and a touchdown. The completions and yards established career highs.
Winless in seven previous trips to Pitt, the Bobcats (1-1) took the field with starting quarterback Nathan Rourke dealing with what the team feared was strep throat, the symptoms first appearing Friday. In the face of a relentless Pitt pass rush that amassed six sacks and limited Ohio to 4 of 15 on third down, Rourke struggled to make much happen.
He was 15 of 27 for 177 yards.
After the teams traded punts to open the game, Pitt drove 79 yards on 12 plays and opened the scoring with an Alex Kessman 27-yard field goal with 7:49 left in the first quarter.
After Ffrench’s game-breaking score, Pitt immediately forced a three-and-out and marched down the field again. Freshman Vincent Davis ran it in from 3 yards to make it 17-0 with 9:28 left in the half. A Louis Zervos 23-yard field goal for Ohio with 6:55 left made it 17-3, which held to halftime.
Kessman connected from 41 yards to make it 20-3 near the midpoint of the third quarter, but Ohio answered with a five-play, 75-yard drive that ended with junior running back De’Montre Tuggle running it in from 7 yards to make it 20-10.
Pitt sophomore defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman led the Panthers defense with three sacks.
—Field Level Media