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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Chris Matthews poses for a photo at the Global Hub in Posvar Hall.
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Pitt football takes care of business, trounces Wofford 45-7

Pitts+football+team+and+head+coach+Pat+Narduzzi+run+onto+the+field+for+the+first+game+of+the+season+against+Wofford+at+Acrisure+Stadium+on+Saturday+afternoon.+
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Pitt’s football team and head coach Pat Narduzzi run onto the field for the first game of the season against Wofford at Acrisure Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Last year, Pitt football began their season with a bang, defeating fierce rival West Virginia 38-31 in the Backyard Brawl.

But this year’s season opener was much less action-packed than last year’s, as the Panthers began their 2023 campaign with a 45-7 rout of FCS-opponent Wofford. With the win, the Panthers move to 21-1 all-time against FCS opponents. 

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi was satisfied with his team’s effort, despite playing a vastly inferior foe. 

“We were able to come out here and play an FCS team and play the way we are supposed to,” Narduzzi said. “Not play down, play up. I don’t know if it could have been a better first half, the way our guys played. We came out and played a solid second half.”

Despite a rusty first two drives, Pitt redshirt senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec played a clean game, completing 74 percent of his passes, while throwing for 214 yards and one touchdown. This was the Pittsburgh-natives debut with the Panthers, as he previously played with Notre Dame and Boston College. Jurkovec was happy with his performance and debut. 

“It felt great,” Jurkovec said. “It felt great to be out there on that field, playing with the guys. We put in a lot of work, so it felt good to get the first one.”

Ethan Shulman | Staff Photographer

On defense, the Panthers were stout, holding the Terriers to just 127 yards on the game. The Pitt rush defense was especially potent, as the unit held Wofford to -1 rushing yards. 

The Panthers’ powerful defense was on full display early in the game. On the very first drive, senior defensive end Dayon Hayes rushed past the Wofford offensive line, sacking senior quarterback Bryce Corriston for a loss of eight yards. Pitt defense remained strong throughout the first quarter, allowing just ten yards in the period. 

Hayes, who previously was a second-string lineman most of his career, was surprised that he was able to make an impact that quickly.

“It was crazy,” Hayes said. “I was shocked. I was like ‘Dang, this happened that fast.’”

But while Pitt’s defense came out of the gate ready to play, the offense lagged behind. Jurkovec only completed one pass for no gain on his first drive in the Blue and Gold. 

To make matters worse, on first and 10,  junior Wofford linebacker David Powers sliced through the Pitt offensive line, forcing Jurkovec to scramble back. The new Panther quarterback tried to stay on his feet, but it was to no avail, as Powers sacked Jurkovec for a loss of 12 yards. Pitt ultimately punted on its first drive of the season. 

On the Panthers next drive, it appeared the team would have to punt again. But a clutch four yard pick up by redshirt senior running back Daniel Carter on fourth and three saved the drive. 

After almost giving the ball up for a second time, Pitt managed to slow the game down, utilizing both the run and pass attack to move down field. Junior running back Rodney Hammond Jr. finished off the drive, gliding into the endzone for a 10 yard touchdown to put the Panthers up 7-0 with two and a half minutes remaining in the first quarter.  

Pitt’s defense then showed off its skill to end the quarter. With just over a minute remaining in the first quarter, Panthers’ defensive end redshirt senior Bam Brima recovered a Terrier fumble to pick up Pitt’s first turnover of the year. 

After a slow start to his Pitt career, Jurkovec found his groove early in the second quarter. The redshirt senior quarterback opened up the quarter with a pass up the middle to redshirt senior running back C’Bo Flemister. Jurkovec then decided to show off his legs to finish the drive, avoiding defenders on his way to a 23 yard touchdown. Jurkovec’s efforts gave the Panthers a 14-0 lead with 13 and a half minutes remaining in the half. 

Jurkovec and the Panthers continued to build momentum throughout the second quarter. With just over eight minutes remaining in the half, Jurkovec connected with junior tight end Gavin Bartholomew, who managed to hang onto the ball for a 28 yard gain, despite fierce coverage from the Wofford secondary. Bartholomew’s efforts ultimately allowed Carter to punch it in for a one yard touchdown, putting the Panthers up 21-0. 

Jurkovec said that his throw to Bartholomew was his favorite in the game.

“I liked the throw to Gavin [Bartholomew],” Jurkovec said. “I think I gave him a good ball, a back shoulder, and he went up and got it. So knowing that we can make that play, I think that’ll open up a lot.”

By the end of the first half, the offense was completely in control of the game. In the waning moments of the second quarter, Jurkovec caught fire, completing three passes for 57 yards. Hammond finished the drive with a three yard touchdown rush and the Panthers headed into the locker room with a 28-0 lead. 

The Panthers fielded the ball to start the half. Taking over five and half minutes off the clock, Pitt slowly moved down field, utilizing short runs and passes to get within scoring. Then, on second and goal, Jurkovec dodged defenders before connecting with redshirt senior tight end Karter Johnson on a tricky one-yard touchdown pass. 

Then the Panthers added to their lead with another long scoring drive. This time the Panthers knocked over seven minutes off the clock, before redshirt junior Ben Sauls hit a 26 yard field goal, adding three more points to Pitt’s dominant 38-0 lead. 

Towards the end of the game, Narduzzi put in redshirt sophomore quarterback Christian Veilleux to replace Jurkovec. Veilleux threw five passes for 60 yards and a touchdown while the game clock ran down.

Wofford barely avoided the shutout in the final few seconds of the game. Corriston connected with first-year wide receiver Tyler Parker with just over 90 seconds on the clock to give Wofford it’s only score of the game. 

The Panthers ultimately ran out the clock and earned the 45-7 victory, moving to 1-0 on the season. 

Pitt will now prepare to face old-rival Cincinnati in the renewed River City game. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. and coverage will air on The CW. 

About the Contributor
Brian Sherry, Sports Editor