Fowl play: Pitt cooks Blue Hens


The Pitt football team knew the importance of doing well right from the start in its season opener.

“A team like this, they look at this as one of their biggest games of the year,” redshirt junior center Artie Rowell said. “So from the other side of that, if you can go out first drive: run the ball, score. Second drive: run the ball, score, that’s gonna give us a lot of the momentum, and that’s gonna take a lot out of their engine.”

The opposition was the University of Delaware, a Football Championship Subdivision school. The early offense jumpstarted Pitt and previewed the ease with which the team would dispose of the lesser opponent in a 62-0 destruction on Saturday afternoon.

“That’s what the game is all about: really capturing the momentum and then keeping the momentum,” Rowell said.

The score was 42-0 by halftime.

The blowout win, Pitt’s first shutout since 2005, was a departure from what happened on the first day of the season in 2012 when the team lost 31-17 to Youngstown State, also an FCS school.

It began when Delaware went three and out to start the game, then punted.

Sophomore Tyler Boyd received the ball and maneuvered his way to a 35-yard return.

He would get the ball again on the next play on an end around, running ahead for a 12-yard gain.

Then it was classmate James Conner’s turn, as he ran for a 10-yard gain, which he followed with a 12-yard advance before he ran in a seven-yard touchdown.

The four-play series took just a minute and a half to complete, covering 41 yards. Conner said success was important to help quarterback Chad Voytik, making his first collegiate start, feel at ease.

“Chad said, ‘Let’s make it easy.  Let’s make it look easy today,’ and I wanted to make it easier for him,” Conner said. “That [early success running the ball]  boosted Chad’s confidence through the roof, and that’s what we need.  He’s the leader of our offense so, if he’s comfortable everybody’s comfortable.”

Voytik, a redshirt sophomore, would finish the game having thrown 84 yards on 10-13 attempts, and two touchdowns, not throwing an incompletion until late in the the second quarter.

As a whole, the offense would amass 501 yards with Pitt’s point total setting a Heinz Field record.

“They were just hanging points up there,”  senior safety Ray Vinopal said. “Which you love to see.”

Conner ran for three more scores and would finish with 153 rushing yards on 14 carries.

The Panthers’ second drive moved the momentum a little bit more in their direction with Boyd and Conner continuing to help their quarterback get settled, accounting for 34 yards between them on the 62-yard movement.

It ended with Voytik finding Boyd for a diving catch in the end zone from 12 yards out.

Boyd would later leave the game and not return after returning a punt in the second quarter. He dislocated a finger on his left hand, and his status for Friday’s game at Boston College isn’t known.  He finished with 18 yards receiving, the touchdown and 17 yards rushing.

The defense also started strong, not allowing the Blue Hens to cross midfield on a drive until the fourth quarter. The visitors finished with 57 yards of total offense. It was the first time Pitt has kept an opponent to less than 100 yards of total offense since 1998.

Vinopal said the offense’s performance helped the defense just focus on, and execute, its responsibilities.

“It’s easy to do your job when you know the other guys are going to go capitalize on what you just did,” he said.

The poor play of Delaware quarterback Trent Hurley also accelerated Pitt’s dominance. The Connellsville, Pa., native threw three interceptions and nearly a fourth, leaving the game having thrown for just 19 yards and completing six of 13 attempts.

Despite the wide halftime margin, the level of Pitt’s play didn’t drop after the break, winning the second half 20-0.

“Good teams put teams away when they’re supposed to put teams away,” Vinopal said.