Sep 2, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Tyler Boyd (23) carries the ball against the Florida State Seminoles during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Florida State Seminoles won 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Panthers dominate New Mexico

Following a loss against Florida State to start the season, the Pittsburgh Panthers football team ran away from the New Mexico Lobos winning by a 49-27 score.

“It was good to play and come away with the win,” Panthers Head Coach Paul Chryst said. “Anytime you win the game, there are players that do things to help the team win by making plays. Clearly, there are a lot of areas we have to clean up. Our special teams were not very good as a whole. Offensively, we had turnovers and another ball we did not lose. We gave up two interceptions and a fumble. We jumped three times on the defensive line. Yet, at the same time, guys made some good plays.”

The Panthers [1-1, 0-1 ACC] received the football first and it looked as though quarterback Tom Savage picked right up where he left off against Florida State under throwing Devin Street as his pass was intercepted by Dante Caro. While this may have spelled disaster before, the Panthers defense was active all half and forced a three and out. New Mexico then missed a field goal allowing the Pitt offense to go to work.

The big play in the drive was Tyler Boyd’s 51 yard pass reception. It was Savage’s first pass since the interception and for Boyd another big play.

If there was an Achilles Heal for Pitt in the first half it was their kick coverage. Pitt allowed a 74 yard return by Carlos Wiggins. The defense held once again allowing three points on a Justus Adams kick.

The Panthers struck again on their next possession. In week one Boyd ran the ball effectively and the play worked to perfection again as an outside run turned into a 33 yard touchdown to extend the lead. Pitt clearly had momentum on both sides of the football and scored again before the end of the first half when James Connor followed up a 20 yard rush with a one yard run.

New Mexico added a field goal thanks to a methodical drive however the Panthers answered as Connor scored again rushing for a 38 yard touchdown.

In the first half, Devin Street made five receptions to pass Larry Fitzgerald for third place in career catches.

Pitt would score again before the half and it was Boyd once again. The Panthers were the beneficiaries of a personal foul. With 14 seconds to go Savage was forced to roll out and threw a ball for Boyd in the end zone. Boyd was able to come away with the ball and a highlight reel score to put the Panthers up 35-6 at the half.

“He just gets it,” Savage said. “There are some kids like that, and he’s one of them. You get into a game and he just knows how to come down with the ball. He does it non-stop at practice, so I wasn’t surprised at all when he made that play.”

All of the Panthers points were scored by true freshmen in the first half. In addition the Panthers scored more than 20 points in the first quarter for the first time since September 12, 2009 vs Buffalo.

Pittsburgh continued its momentum in the third quarter as Isaac Bennett scored an eight yard touchdown to build a 42-6 lead. New Mexico would answer as new quarterback Cole Gautsche scored two rushing touchdowns.

Bennett would score to start the fourth quarter meaning both him and Connor each ran for over 100 yards. This is the first time that feat has been accomplished since October 20, 2007 vs Cincinnati. Both players also ran for career highs as a Panther in this match up.

“It was a good day for me and Isaac, it just felt really good,” Connor said. “We try to compete against each other. Today was just a really good day for us.”

In the final minute New Mexico added a 20 yard rushing touchdown from Crusoe Gongbay but time was not on their side.

We were tentative early,” New Mexico Head Coach Bob Davie said. “We were wobbly early. That’s what I told our team. We really couldn’t stop them if you look back at it. They had big backs, big wide receivers, big quarterback and a big
offensive line.”

The Panthers will take to the road to face Duke next weekend. The game will kick off at 12:30 on the ACC Network. The following week, Pitt will return home to face Virginia at a to be determined time.

Key plays:

I have two key plays that I will think about well past this game. The first is obvious as Boyd’s touchdown catch brought everyone out of their seats.

“As soon as he [Savage], said hut I was trying to run a dig route but then Tommy got out of the pocket and started scrambling,” Boyd said. “I just rolled and went back for it like a deep route and he just threw it right over the defender’s head. I went up and caught it.”

The second came on what appeared to be a New Mexico punt, however it was linebacker Todd Thomas sensed something was wrong and was all over what ended up being a failed attempt at a fake.

“We went through it all week,” Thomas said. “That was my key, that was my read and I just did what I had to do and I just did my job.”

The journey has been tough for Thomas this off-season. Upon finding out that he had not earned a starting job with the team, he opted to leave Pitt. After time away though Thomas found that he had a change of heart and talked to Chryst about coming back.

“He said it’s up to the team to let me come back,” Thomas said. “Then I talked to the seniors and they said that they wanted me back, I just had to change a little bit. I had to stay humble and I changed for the team, and I’m happy about that.”

Thomas did not start against Florida State but was able to earn back that role against New Mexico.

My take- Pitt came fully prepared for New Mexico’s option offense. I have to give a lot of credit to Defensive Coordinator Matt House, he took a lot of criticism for the Florida State loss, however he deserves just as much praise for this win. The special teams kick coverage was poor at best and allowed a deep return in addition to several other decent run backs. Savage still needs a bit of work as he threw another two interceptions today. I still find Connor to be the stronger of the two tailbacks, however Bennett needed a game like this. The Panthers have to feel good getting this win and know they are closer to where they want to be.

Scoring Summary Pitt vs New Mexico 9.14.13

First Quarter

Pitt- Orndoff 5 yard pass from Savage [Chris Blewitt kick good] 10:00 7-0
New Mexico- Justus Adams 28 yard kick 7:38 7-3
Pitt- Boyd 33 yard run [Blewitt kick good] 5:00 14-3
Pitt- Connor 1 yard run [Blewitt kick good] 1:24 21-3

Second Quarter
New Mexico- Adams 22 yard kick 10:25 21-6
Pitt- Connor 38 yard run [Blewitt kick good] 8:11 28-6
Pitt- Boyd 34 yard pass from Savage [Blewitt kick good] 0:00 35-6

Third Quarter
Pitt- Bennett 8 yard run [Blewitt kick good] 9:47 42-6
New Mexico- Gautsche 1 yard run [Adams kick good] 4:20 42-13
New Mexico- Gautsche 12 yard run [Adams kick good] 1:42 42-20

Fourth Quarter
Pitt- Bennett 13 yard run [Blewitt kick good] 11:35 49-20
New Mexico- Gongbay 20 yard run [Adams kick good] 0:52 49-27

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