Football: Panthers win when Lewis ‘turns on the jets’

By Jay Huerbin

AMHERST, N.Y. — In a flash, running back Dion Lewis turned a close game into a blowout during Pitt’s 54-27 victory over Buffalo on Saturday.

Leading the Bulls by 13 points late in the fourth quarter, the Panthers took over on downs after Buffalo failed to convert on a fourth-down touchdown pass attempt from 20 yards out.

A false start penalty later, the true freshman took a handoff from quarterback Bill Stull at the Panthers’ 15-yard line. He broke through Buffalo’s defensive line and into the secondary, with roughly 50 yards of wide-open space ahead of him.

“Just protect the ball was my first thought,” Lewis said. “We pretty much have the game under control. When I got to the open field, I thought that I could out-run them, so I just turned on the jets.”

And turn on the jets he did — for all of 85 yards.

A burst of speed later and Lewis was standing in the endzone, marking his second touchdown of the game. The Panthers held a 20-point lead with less than five minutes left in the game.

Lewis finished the day with 190 yards on 24 attempts. It was his second consecutive 100-yard game. Against Youngstown State, Lewis carried the ball 20 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

For the Bulls, he was a player they couldn’t contain. But for the Panthers, he’s exactly what they expected.

“Dion Lewis to me is not a freshman,” Stull said. “He came in and did his thing in the spring, and he’s kept getting better.”

That’s good news about the backfield considering the big-time loss of former Pitt star LeSean McCoy, who left after his sophomore year to join the NFL.

Running wasn’t the only thing Lewis was doing well. He also caught six passes for 46 yards — second most on the team in the game. Most of those catches came when Stull was pressured and needed to get a quick screen pass off to his running back.

Despite needing to throw a short yard pass, it doesn’t bother Stull.

“A 2-yard pass can turn into a big gain, it’s exciting to watch,” he said about using Lewis as a receiver.

With his ability to create plays from the runs and catches, Lewis is making his mark on the Pitt football program.

“He’s going to be a big-time player for us,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said.