Narduzzi Secures First Career Victory At Pitt With 45-37 Win Over Youngstown State


Sep 5, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back Qadree Ollison (37) carries the ball as Youngstown State Penguins safety LeRoy Alexander (L) chases during the second half at Heinz Field. The Panthers won 45-37. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

At times it wasn’t pretty, but Pitt managed to hold onto the lead in a high-scoring shootout against the Penguins of Youngstown State.

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Pat Narduzzi did what former coach Paul Chryst could not: defeat Youngstown State in their first career game at Pitt.

Bo Pelini, who formerly was the coach at Nebraska, lost his opening game with the Penguins, as Pitt hung on for a 45-37 win.

The Panthers played without All-American wide receiver Tyler Boyd and last year’s leading tackler in defensive end Rori Blair, who were both suspended for DUI incidents.

ACC Player of the Year running back James Conner scored two early touchdowns for Pitt but then left the game in the first half with an apparent knee injury.  He scored from 13 and 4 yards out to give Pitt an early 14-3 lead.  For the rest of the first half, Pitt could not move the ball without Conner.

Narduzzi held Conner out of the game with a minor right knee injury, and the Penguins did not back away.  At the running back position, Pitt did not miss a beat in the second half, as 6-foot-2, 230-pound redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison ran for a freshman Pitt record of 207 yards and a score.

Ollison stated, “Coach Narduzzi is always preaching next man up and we always preach that in the running back room.  We’re all about equal to each other. We believe anybody can go in there and get the job done if James goes down.”

Ollison certainly got the job done, and I think he was the MVP of this afternoon’s game for the Panthers.

I predicted Pitt to win this game 45-10, so I nailed the Pitt total, but I was WAY off on the defensive side of the score.  The defense gave up 407 yards but did put pressure on the quarterback and landed six sacks.

The defense gave up some really big plays, including a 27-yard TD run by Jody Webb, a 77-yard Hunter Wells TD pass to Andre Stubbs, and a 75-yard TD run by Webb.

In the second quarter with Pitt leading 17-6, junior quarterback Chad Voytik threw a costly interception that was returned 41 yards by Leroy Alexander for a touchdown to make it 17-13.  You could hear the Pitt faithful sighs at Heinz Field.

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  • On the ensuing kickoff, Pitt sophomore cornerback Avonte Maddox returned the ball for a 89-yard TD, making it a little more comfortable for Pitt fans on a hot and humid Saturday afternoon.

    The Panthers pulled away with a 31-16 lead on an Ollison 71-yard TD run, and it felt as though Pitt was in control.

    Webb’s 27-yard TD run put the Penguins back into it, but Voytik connected with junior tight end Scott Orndoff on a 55-yard TD pass.  Voytik had a wide open Elijah Zeise on the play but appeared to underthrow him, as Orndoff broke free, secured the ball, hurdled Zeise, and scampered into the end zone to give Pitt a 38-23 lead in the fourth quarter.

    To me, the Orndoff TD and Maddox kick-return TD turned the momentum of the game back in Pitt’s favor.  Voytik needs to utilize the tight ends more often in the passing game, as Orndoff showed his speed today.  Voytik missed him on another play earlier in the game, which would have been another touchdown.

    Sep 5, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers tight end Scott Orndoff (83) runs after catching a fifty-five yard touchdown pass against the Youngstown State Penguins during the second half at Heinz Field. The Panthers won 45-37. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    With under 7-minutes remaining, Stubbs scored on a 77-yard TD pass, Pitt countered with a Voytik 1-yard TD run, and the Penguins immediately responded with a Webb 75-yard TD run on their first play.

    With Pitt leading 45-37, the offense did not come through, but the defense held their own to secure the win.  Pitt fans were on the edge of their seat, hoping not to experience another fiasco like the Armed Forces Bowl against Houston.

    The Pitt defense clearly has some work to do, and Narduzzi and staff now have some game film to critique and improve upon.

    As for offense, the quarterback position still needs some work.  Tennessee transfer QB Nate Peterman came in for two possessions in the first quarter, completing 2 of 4 passes and connecting on a 42-yard pass to Dontez Ford, but then he threw an interception in the next possession.  Voytik completed 9 of 14 passes for only 72 yards (Orndoff accounted for 55 yards on 1 play), one TD and one interception.

    For the Pitt offense to become more dynamic, the quarterback play will need to improve, and I think it will with the return of Tyler Boyd next week.  Pitt did amass 325 yards on the ground.

    It was not pretty, but a win is a win.  Pitt (1-0) will travel to Akron next Saturday with revenge on their mind.  Hopefully James Conner will be able to play, but Ollison has proven that he can be a viable backup, along with Chris James and Darrin Hall.


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