The kick off was pushed back after some heavy rain. After fans had waited for hours before the game to grab the best seats they were asked to quickly leave. The fans didn’t have to wait long for the rain to clear up and for Pitt to start. The game kicked off at 8:10, only ten minutes after the original kick-off time was scheduled. Tonight’s game was a sell-out at Heinz field, totaling 65,500. It was the first sell-out since September 24, 2011 when Pitt played Notre Dame.
Panthers give fans hope early
The opening drive for Pitt was certainly something for fans to cheer about especially compared to previous years. Pitt showed the ACC and the rest of the world watching that they could actually be contenders in this conference. Former Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage started off with a pass complete to Devin Street. Street is tackled by Terrance Brooks after gaining 31-yards on the play. The second play almost as impressive with the Panthers picking up 18 yards. Next, running back Isaac Bennett takes a crack on FSU’s defense, and rushes for 10 yards - first and ten on the 20-yard line. Savage finds Street again but still no TD. Savage finally connects with Former Wisconsin tight end junior Mansasseh Garner for the first touchdown of the game. Pitt kicker Chris Blewitt's extra-point attempt is good. It may be hard to believe but Pitt is on the board first in just 9 plays for 80 yards in 4 minutes and 10 seconds. Pitt on top 7-0.
“It is good to complete your first pass and sort of get the flow going,” said Savage. “I got hit that first play. They were trying to hit me all night. The best thing is when you get hit and you see that you got a first down.”
Tom Savage is now the first player on record to throw a TD against Pitt, and now for Pitt. Savage scored two touchdowns against Pitt when playing at Rutgers in 2009 and 2010.
Savage’s strong start goes south
Savage’s second series of the night…He connects with Garner once again and Pitt picks up a big first down. A gain of 7 on the play, and Pitt is now 2-for-2 on third downs. The following play is when it started to go south for Savage. His pass was intercepted by defensive back Jalen Ramsey, a 31-yard return. A penalty is called on Pitt for chop blocking, but is declined and the interception stands.
“Tom had a good camp,” said Pitt head coach Paul Chryst. “Game action is going to be different. On the first interception, he didn’t see the safety. On the second one, he saw it a little different. It was good for him to get the game action. I love the way he competed.”
Winston has arrived
Jameis Winston lives up to the hype. He tossed a 24-yard touchdown to Nick O’Leary. Pitt cornerback K’Waun Willaims wasn’t even close to catching up with O’Leary on that particular scoring drive. It only took the Noles two plays for 24 yards in 43 seconds. Pitt and FSU knotted at 7-7 with 4:11 left in the first quarter. Following the touchdown, Pitt gets called on a 15-yard penalty for roughing the snapper.
Winston continued winning. On a first and two, Winston connected to O’Leary for a 2-yard touchdown. FSU scoring drive totaled to 8 plays for 81 yards in 3:59. The third touchdown recorded by Winston, a 32-yard touchdown to Greene, 27-10 FSU. Winston's fourth TD of the night, a spot on pass to his favorite receiver of the night, O’Leary.
Overall, Winston finished with 4 touchdowns, and 1 rushing touchdown. He completed 25-27 for 357 yards. Winston had over 300 yards in his first start, against a Panthers defense with seven returning starters. Savage was not as successful, he recorded 1 TD in addition to his 2 interceptions.
“It was one ball game guys,” said FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher. “That’s it. He did a great job. As long as he keeps the process in mind and working with great habits, he will be fine. That’s what he has to do. It is not about age. It is about habits. If you have good work habits you have good results. You have ability. He does that. I was very pleased with the poise he showed in the pocket. He did a nice job of staying composed, poised and staying in the ball game.”
Scary Duo: Boyd and Street
A positive for Panthers fans is that they got a good look at not only wide receiver Devin Street this game but also wide receiver Tyler Boyd. Boyd’s first big play of the game was a pick up of 20-yards in the second quarter. Street and Boyd proved that they could be a difficult duo to defend for future opponents. Another highlight play featuring Savage to Boyd ended in a 17-yard gain.
“I thought it was going to be really tough, but I expected too much, I guess,” said Boyd. “Every time we ran that play, it was good and on point, and every time we ran that the line blocked, the receivers blocked, the fullbacks blocked; so we kept running the route that was open every time.”
Street broke his career high of 141-yards by one on six catches. Boyd finished with 151-yard all purpose including 3 runs for 54-yards.
Specialists stand out
Blewitt made a 28-yard field goal, marking Blewitt's first career field goal for Pitt. The Panthers scoring drive, 11 plays for 69 yards in 4 minutes and 23 seconds.
Blewitt tallied two more field goals, a 39-yard field goal and a 28-yard field goal. Yoklic averaged 54.3 yards on 3 punts and 2 inside the 20.
Boyd averaged 23.7 on 3 kick-offs.
Bright Spots on Panthers Defense
Moving to the defensive side, Chryst makes the call to start Nicholas Grigsby at outside linebacker instead of Todd Thomas or Bam Bradley. The Panthers Trenton Coles is credited for forcing a FSU fumble. Aaron Donald credited with the first Pitt sack of the night on Winston, loss of 7 on the play. Grigsby recorded his first career sack on Winston.
Extra points on the Panthers
#1 Larry Fitzgerald was honored at the halftime show. Fitzgerald was joined on the field with his son. Fitzgerald gave thanks to all his former coaches, teammates, the fans and to the university…Pitt used 11 true freshman players in their ACC debut.