Pitt fries Rice, 42-10, snaps losing streak


Qadree Ollison (37) celebrates after his first quarter touchdown. Photo by Wenhao Wu | Assistant Visual Editor

As redshirt senior Max Browne threw a 48-yard touchdown in the Panthers’ opening drive, he finally solved the Panther quarterback dilemma.

In a 42-10 rout of the Rice Owls (1-4), the Panther offense found its footing, putting up more than 400 yards through the air as the team picked up its second win of the season.

Head coach Pat Narduzzi awarded the starting quarterback job to Browne, replacing redshirt sophomore Ben DiNucci who started last week.

The Panthers received the ball first and found early success to move the ball downfield. Browne highlighted the drive as he scrambled to his right and hit sophomore running back Chawntez Moss. Moss ran down the right sideline for a 48-yard touchdown to put the Panthers on the board early, 7-0.

Backed up deep in their own territory, the Owls converted a few first downs, but the Panthers eventually forced them to punt the ball away.

The offense picked up right where it left off in the Panthers’ second drive. Following two straight first downs, the Owls lost redshirt senior wide receiver Jester Weah as he ran downfield, but Browne found him wide-open for a 55-yard touchdown to put the Panthers up 14-0.

This was the biggest of Weah’s five catches in route to a team-leading 137-yard receiving day.

“For whatever reason it hadn’t clicked the first two weeks,” Browne said. “No one person or one thing’s fault, it just hadn’t clicked. So for him to have a big day, I’m happy.”

The Owl offense came back with a quick first down, but after two Panther sacks and a near interception by senior defensive back Avonte Maddox, the Owls punted the ball away.

Seizing great field position after a short punt, the Panther offense quickly drove deep into Owl territory with an effective mix of run and pass plays. Redshirt junior running back Qadree Ollison capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown rush up the middle to put the Panthers up 21-0.

After a quick three-and-out, the Panthers took over the ball with a 21-0 lead as the first quarter came to a close.

Browne methodically led the Panther offense deep into Owl territory, but on third-and-goal from the one-yard line, Moss fumbled the ball. The Owls recovered and regained possession, but punted the ball away shortly after.

Two big pickups from junior wide receiver Quadree Henderson and junior defensive back Jordan Whitehead to start the drive immediately pushed the Panther offense into the red zone. After moving the ball to the 1-yard line, Moss punched it in to put the Panthers up 28-0 with 4:15 left in the half.

The two teams traded punts, and time expired as sophomore Damar Hamlin picked off a desperate Owl pass to end the half with the Panthers up 28-0.

[Click here for a gallery of Saturday’s game.]

The Panthers defeated the Owls 42-10 Saturday afternoon. Photo by Wenhao Wu | Assistant Visual Editor

With a big lead, the Panthers were focused on finishing the game in the second half.

“We didn’t want to come out like we did in the first game and let them come back in,” redshirt junior offensive lineman Alex Bookser said. “And we came out and kind of [put our] foot on the accelerator.”

The Owl offense found some rhythm and moved the ball deep into Panther territory in the opening of the second half. The Panther defense held up the drive at the 6-yard line and forced the Owls into a 23-yard field goal, making the game 28-3.

Even though Browne kept the offense moving in the next Panther drive, on fourth-and-1, the Owls stuffed Moss at the line to regain possession.

After a holding penalty stalled their drive, the Owls punted the ball back to the Panthers, but the Panthers returned the ball back after a three and out.

“Even in that third quarter when we went three and out, and Coach Watson called two runs in a row, and I think we took a sack on third down, I said, “Forget it, just throw it,’” Narduzzi said. “‘We’re not getting conservative here.’”

On the first play of the drive, sophomore quarterback Jackson Tyner found junior wide receiver Austin Walter  who streaked down the field for a 70-yard touchdown, 28-10.

The Panthers regained possession as the third quarter ended with the Panthers up 28-10.

Browne and Weah had a big drive for the Panthers, connecting on two passes for a total of 58 yards. At the Owl 1-yard line, Browne completed an out to junior running back Darrin Hall for a touchdown, putting the Panthers up 35-10.

As the Owls pushed the ball into Panther territory in their next drive, redshirt sophomore Dane Jackson intercepted a Tyner pass to stop the drive.

“They had one nice catch on Dane [Jackson],” Narduzzi said. “But what does Dane do, he came back and got an interception.”

Seizing the momentum, the Panther offense moved downfield, capping off the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore Chris Clark. The Panthers led 42-10 with 4:51 left in the 4th quarter.

After forcing an Owl punt, DiNucci relieved Browne at quarterback, and the Owls forced the Panthers to punt it away. As the Owls made one last drive down the field, redshirt junior Dennis Briggs intercepted the ball, sealing the Panthers’ victory.

DiNucci took a knee with 32 seconds remaining to end the game with a Panther victory of 42-10.

Browne had a career day for the Panthers, completing 28 of 32 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns and leading a revitalized Panther offense to a huge win.

“We had not been playing Pitt football, not just in my opinion but most peoples’ opinions on the team,” Bookser said. “We needed to go out and really perform at a high level, and I think we were able to do that today.”

The Panthers will look to keep up their strong play on both sides of the ball as they head to Syracuse to take on the Orange next Saturday at 12:30 p.m.