After six months of hype, Pitt was officially welcomed to the ACC with a 41-13 drubbing by the hands of Florida State.
Jameis Winston had the best debut of any quarterback in history of Florida State, completing 25-27 passes for 356 yards, four touchdowns and a rushing touchdown as well. Tight end Nick O'Leary caught three of those touchdowns, finishing with four overall catches for 47 yards.
Receivers Tyler Boyd and Devin Street highlighted Pitt's effort. Boyd finished with 151 all-purpose yards, while Street caught six passes for 141 yards.
"“That was a good team we played," Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said. "Give them a lot of credit. They beat us in a lot of phases. We got beat. I liked the approach of our players. Our guys competed, but we have to do more than that.”
Shocking as it is to believe in hindsight, Pitt did take the opening lead in this game.
Not having success on a pair of inside runs, Pitt went to the passing game early. On his first throw as a Panther, Tom Savage connected with Street. Street initially bounced out of his coverage after making the catch, then broke two more tackles, onward for a gain of 31.
After Isaac Bennett was stopped for another no gain, he finally was able to bounce off tackle for a gain of ten. After establishing a presence in the running game, Pitt quickly went back to the pass--Savage hitting Street on a slant for a gain of 14. It set up the short passing game, then. Widely known for using the tight ends, and not seeing it through the first eight plays, Savage hit Manasseh Garner for a 4-yard touchdown.
Savage kept the ball rolling on the next drive, connecting with Garner for another short gain to convert a first down. However, following a TV timeout, Savage was picked off by Jalen Ramsey, who returned the ball 31 yards to the 24 yard-line.
"“Personally I left a lot out here," Savage said. "I think we can improve, but I think our offense is going to be something special this year and I am excited to watch it progress.”
Two plays later, Winston connected with O'Leary for his first score of the game, a 24-yard touchdown pass. Bryan Murphy applied pressure there, but didn't get to Winston in time. O'Leary got a step ahead on K'Waun Williams.
Pitt went three-and-out on its next series--after Telvin Smith applied pressure on Savage, on third down. Smith had three hurries on Savage, alone, in the first quarter.
After the punt, Florida State drove 81 yards in eight plays. Winston, again, connected with O'Leary, this time from two yards out. Of bigger concern, Pitt unable to get to Winston. It was one thing that the Florida State offensive line started showing its poise. Winston also looked like he was getting more comfortable, especially on his feet. He escaped from a little pressure for a gain of nine, and also escaped a wrap from Aaron Donald, running for ten yards, on another play.
Pitt took over at its own 20. Not showing any panic, Chryst went back to the ground game. Sparked by a 20-yard run by Boyd on another jet sweep, Pitt entered Florida State territory.
As Savage scampered for a first down out of bounds, he was pelted by Smith out of bounds. Florida State was flagged 15 yards for a personal foul, and the Pitt drive continued. It was the Seminoles' first penalty of the night.
Pitt got as far as the 11. Facing a 3rd-and-5 at the Florida State 11, Savage had time to throw. He tried to force a pass to Street in the end zone. Unfortunately, a Florida State defender was there for the interception. Thankfully, for Pitt, he dropped it. The Panthers settled for a field goal, a 28-yarder from Chris Blewitt, as the Panthers now trailed 14-10.
Pitt, not able to establish any pressure on Winston, finally got to him on the ensuing drive--Aaron Donald sacking him, forcing a third-and-nine. Winston answered with a 10-yard run. He capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run, finishing a 14-play, 78-yard drive. Florida State led 21-10, two minutes in the half approaching.
Even when things went wrong for Florida State, they still caught up. After Savage was picked off for the second time of the game--this time by Terrence Brooks. Brooks set Florida State up at the Pitt 41. Winston connected with Rashad Greene for a 23-yard score, making it a 28-10 lead, taking it in to halftime.
And, when the second half began, Winston connected with Green for a gain of 41 yards on the first play of the half. The Seminoles drove to the Pitt 8, being slowed up by a holding penalty. The initial field goal attempt was held up by Pitt being flagged for 'trying to distract from setting up a hold.' The penalty went half the distance to the goal. Roberto Aguayo connected with a 21-yard field goal, making it a 31-10 Florida State lead.
When Pitt took the ball for its first offensive series of the second half, Boyd again sparked the drive--another long run off a jet sweep. Amazingly, he had three big plays on offense. All were runs, and he also had a couple of big returns. For as much as he contributed, it was kind of a surprise he didn't get the ball through the air.
After a sack by Lemarcus Joyner--coming up from his corner position--Pitt was faced with a 2nd and 28, then a 3rd and 29. Savage completed a 17-yarder to Boyd--his first career reception, but still short of a first down. Blewitt came on for a 39-yarder, making it a 31-13 Seminole lead.
Florida State answered with another field goal. This time Aguayo added a 28-yarder, making it a 34-13 lead. Winston drove the Seminoles in the Pitt red zone again, highlighted by a 31-yarder to Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin tied a career-high with his fifth catch, as Winston went over the 300-yard mark in his first career start.
Winston and O'Leary connected a third time, a 10-yarder, as Florida State extended its lead to 41-13.
"“I know the reason I was having a good night was because the guys around me were having a better night than I was," Winston said. "I knew we were going to come out there and lay it out on the line.”
Pitt had one more crack at a touchdown. After a 52-yarder from Savage to Street, where Street set a new career-high with 141 receiving yards, the Florida State defense kept the Panthers out of the end zone following four incompletions.
"“I think the effort was there," Street added. "Guys were ready and prepared, but it’s the details. I think guys were trying to do a little too much. We just have to do our job. If you do your job individually, that’s when the whole team comes together.”