Blue and Gold collide in Spring Game

By Logan Hitchcock / Staff Writer

After 14  spring practices, friend became foe for Pitt football players during their final spring activity, the Blue and Gold Game.

Players from the Blue and Gold teams battled back and forth in the first half, yielding to a second half stalemate as the Blue Team edged out the Gold Team by a score of 17-10 on Saturday afternoon at Highmark Stadium.

Playing in its first spring game under new head coach Pat Narduzzi, Pitt split into two teams, Blue and Gold, via draft on Wednesday night. Former Pitt standouts and current NFL stars Larry Fitzgerald and Aaron Donald drafted their teams position by position by elected captains until all the players left the board.

With notable Pitt alumni and football stars Fitzgerald, Donald, LeSean McCoy and Curtis Martin on the sidelines, the Blue Team wasted no time in showing off its offensive prowess. Led by a three-headed monster that included redshirt sophomore quarterback Chad Voytik, sophomore running back James Conner and sophomore wide receiver Tyler Boyd, the Blue Team struck first.

After successfully converting on third down, Voytik hit Boyd for a 46-yard gain, and a few plays later, Conner galloped into the end zone from two yards out, giving Blue a 7-0 lead.

Gold also scored on its first possession, using a 22-yard halfback pass from sophomore Rachid Ibrahim to help set up an eventual 55-yard field goal from sophomore place kicker Chris Blewitt.

A few drives later, Gold struck again when freshman quarterback Adam Bertke found redshirt freshman receiver Zach Challingsworth for a touchdown, giving Gold the 10-7 lead.

In the second quarter, a diving touchdown catch for Blue from freshman wide receiver Elijah Zeise and a field goal from freshman Joel Reighard were the final points of the afternoon as Team Fitzgerald regained the lead at 17-10.

In the second half, the defenses stepped up.

“The defense was great,” Conner said, specifically pointing out sophomore Tyrique Jarrett, who earlier in the morning received the Ed Conway Award, the award given to the offensive and defensive player who made the most improvement during spring drills.

Freshman defensive back Avonte Maddox echoed Conner’s sentiments.

“This defense can be great,” Maddox said.

Maddox, who had four tackles, a sack and pass breakup, helped anchor a Gold defense that stymied a potent offense consisting of Voytik, Conner and Boyd.

While defense has been the topic of conversation since bringing Narduzzi, a former defensive coordinator, on board as head coach, the offenses provided bright spots of their own.

For Blue, Zeise seemed to have a solid rapport with Voytik, barely missing on multiple targets in the first half before finally hauling in his touchdown. For Gold, the offensive recipient of the Ed Conway Award, redshirt sophomore receiver Dontez Ford, drew frequent targets and hauled in two catches for 52 yards.

With the game marking the end of the spring session, Narduzzi said the greatest thing he has learned is the player commitment.

“They have bought in. They are into it and they are enjoying what they are doing,” Narduzzi said.

“This was your first glimpse,” he added.

The next glimpse of the Panthers won’t come until Sept. 5 when the Youngstown State Penguins come to Heinz Field.

Leave a comment.