Pitt bounces back in dominating fashion on Homecoming, defeating UNH 77-7


Patrick Cavanagh | Staff Photographer

Quarterback Kenny Pickett and tight end Lucus Krull celebrate during Saturday’s Homecoming game against the New Hampshire Wildcats at Heinz Field.

By Frankie Richetti, Staff Writer

The Panthers (2-1, 0-0 ACC) welcomed the New Hampshire Wildcats to Heinz Field (3-0, 2-0 CAA) for the teams’ second-ever meeting — in the first meeting in 2010 the Panthers won 38-16. The Panthers extended their win streak against the Wildcats on Saturday, winning 77-7, and enjoyed a couple of record-breaking performances on offense.

The Panthers gashed the Wildcats, putting up the most yards in school history and the most points in a single game since 1926.

Jordan Addison’s 179-yard performance is the most yards by a Pitt receiver in a game since DJ Turner posted 15 catches for 184 yards and a touchdown last season against Virginia Tech.

The Panthers offense posted 70 points for the first time since Nov. 26, 2016 in a 76-61 win over Syracuse. 

Pitt super senior quarterback Kenny Pickett got in on the action too — catapulting himself to No. 1 on the list of rushing touchdowns by a Pitt quarterback with his touchdown in the first quarter. 

The energy before Saturday’s game at Heinz Field seemed lacking coming off last weekend’s 44-41 loss to Western Michigan, but Homecoming weekend presented a fresh start for the Panthers. 

Pitt annihilated the Wildcats — ridding the taste of last weekend’s game from Panther fans’ mouths. 

“Last game the result wasn’t in our favor,” junior linebacker Wendell Davis said. “At some point you have to move on.”

The Panthers’ defense started strong — registering a sack and a hurry on the Wildcats’ first possession of the game. Senior linebacker Phil Campbell hurried the quarterback — forcing New Hampshire sophomore quarterback Bret Edwards into an intentional grounding call in the end zone. The officials indicated the foul occurred in the end zone, resulting in a safety to put the Panthers up 2-0 early. 

On the Panthers’ first drive, Pickett picked up where he left off last week. The super senior connected with sophomore wide receiver Jordan Addison for a 47-yard gain. The gain looked like an exact replica of last week when Addison caught six passes for 124 yards. Pickett capped off the drive with his record-breaking touchdown rush on 4th and goal. 

“You could just see it out there,” Addison said of the familiarity between him and Pickett. “You could see the chemistry that we both have.”

The Panthers’ defense put up points on their second consecutive drive when senior cornerback Demarri Mathis picked off Edwards’ pass and returned the ball 35 yards for a touchdown, pushing the score to 14-0 Panthers.

But the Panthers showed they still clearly have problems in the kicking game, as Sauls missed two extra points on his first two attempts. 

Following a Wildcat three-and-out, Pickett and the Panthers’ offense continued its dominance — marching down the field in under three minutes. Sophomore running back Israel Abanikanda capped off the drive, scampering into the end zone from 15 yards out. Sophomore Sam Scarton replaced Sauls in place kicking duties, and converted the extra point for the first time all day, making it 21-0 Panthers. 

The Wildcats punted again, and if anyone blinked, they would have missed the Panthers’ touchdown. The Panthers scored in just more than a minute of possession. Pickett threw a near perfect ball to the corner of the end zone, hauled in by senior receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis for the score.

The Panthers’ defense was in cruise control, when UNH junior running back Carlos Washington Jr broke off a 70-yard rush to set the Wildcats’ offense up inside the Panthers’ five-yard line entering the second quarter. 

“Obviously that one run we wish we had back,” Davis said. “We did a good job not letting that fluster us.”

The Wildcats were in the negatives in terms of total yardage for the majority of the quarter until the long run. New Hampshire capitalized with its first and only points of the game when Edwards hooked up with junior wideout Sean Coyne for the four-yard score, bringing the score to 28-7. 

But the Panthers promptly answered with a touchdown from Pickett to Addison, this one from 24-yards out. The Panthers’ lead increased to 35-7.

It didn’t take long for Addison to get himself on the stat sheet again.

On the next drive, he took a screen pass to the house. He broke tackles and reversed field, all the way into the end zone for a 47-yard score, and the Panthers increased their lead to 42-7. 

“That play looked like a high school play,” Pickett said.
The Panthers defense forced another punt, and Pickett trotted back on the field with the offense late in the second half. Pickett added on another touchdown before the end of the half, carrying a 49-7 lead into the half.

To the surprise of many, Pickett was under center to start the second half. He promptly uncorked a 46-yard bomb to find Addison for his third receiving touchdown of the game. After the first drive of the second half, Pickett’s day was done and junior quarterback Nick Patti took over. 

Pickett finished with 403 yards on 24-28 passing and six touchdowns. 

The Panthers were in cruise control throughout the second half, with first-year running back  Rodney Hammond stealing the show. Hammond rushed for three touchdowns in the second half, including his first as a Panther, and finished the day with over 100 yards on the ground. 

“He’s strong, he’s physical, he gets north and south,” Head Coach Pat Narduzzi said. “He’s just going to continue to get better.”

The Panther defense was near-perfect on the day, holding the Wildcats to 0-12 on third downs and under 200 total yards, as well as forcing two takeaways. 

The Panthers ACC opener against the Yellow Jackets kicks off next Saturday at noon.