Pittsburgh put together a near-perfect scoring drive to open the game and played staunch defense on its way to a 27-14 win against the Midshipmen Saturday night at Heinz Field to go 3-0 for just the third time this decade.
"We knew that nothing would be easy in this game, and we knew it would be a four-quarter game,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "That was our focus leading up to this game, because I didn't think we played, for whatever reason, with maximum energy for four quarters yet. But I thought we did tonight.''
Fifth-year senior quarterback Bill Stull was 6-for-6 for 66 yards in that 78-yard opening scoring drive that lasted 12 plays and 6:29. Stull was 12-for-14 for 189 and a touchdown toss to fifth-year senior wideout Oderick Turner on the first possession. Turner had just one scoring catch last year, and it didn't come until midseason against Louisville at home.
"The main thing that we stressed during the first couple series was to take what (Navy) gave us,'' Stull said. "If the flat's there, take it. No need to force a deep in-route to (Baldwin) if it's not there, and that really opened up some deeper passes throughout the game.''
Stull was 17-for-24 for 245 yards overall, but had three drops in the second half. His decision-making was solid, and he only had a couple bad passes. The others were thrown away due to pressure from the Navy defense. Overall, though, he was sharp and decisive.
Sophomore wideout Jonathan Baldwin was the biggest beneficiary with six catches for 111 yards with a 49-yard bomb as the longest reception. Baldwin also caught a 22-yarder during the first series to set up a first-and-goal at the 6. The long pass came on first down and changed field position, but Pitt lost the ball three plays later. Stull had a pass batted back to him, and he ran 23 yards with the reception to the 1. However, he fumbled, and Navy recovered.
"Bill and I had a good thing going tonight,'' Baldwin said. "I always tell him to just throw it up in my direction, and I'll go get it. It worked out pretty well for us in this game, but I had one drop on him. I took my eyes off it, but I'm going to make sure that doesn't happen again.''
Navy tied the score at 7-7 in the waning seconds of the first quarter, as they took advantage of roughing the punter penalty. But Pitt came back with a five-play, 59-yard drive in just 1:39. Henry Hynoski took a short kickoff 11 yards to the 41. After a short run, Stull hit Baldwin for 18 and Nate Byham for 24, as the senior tight end snagged the pass out of the air despite tight coverage. Frosh Ray Graham scored from 15 yards out two plays later.
Pitt's defense set up the next score just before halftime. Dion Lewis, who had 79 yards on 23 carries, scored Pitt's third touchdown with 1:10 remaining in the first half. The Panthers got the ball on the 15 after a sack forced a punt. The kicker dropped the ball and tried to kick it on the ground, which is a penalty and put the ball half the distance to the goal line on the 15.
The Midshipmen averaged 238 yards rushing in its first two games, but the Panthers held them to 129 on 46 attempts (2.8 per carry). And 42 came on one run by fullback Alexander Teich (12 for 80 yards) where he broke a tackle and got outside.
"We weren't happy with our performance at Buffalo (500 yards allowed), but we had a nice comeback game against Navy,'' Pitt defensive tackle Gus Mustakas said. "Against a team that's going to run the ball the way they do, I just feel like we did a great job on defense.
"We played smart and stuck with our responsibilities. So, I'm very proud of the way we played to hold these guys to 14 points. We were supposed to be one of the best defenses in the country. At least I feel like we should be that good, but we didn't play that way before tonight.''
About the worst thing Pitt did was commit six penalties for 94 yards with 75 on five major infractions. The Panthers had a roughing the punter penalty that was crucial in Navy's first touchdown, while a phantom pass-interference call aided the second score. But the Pitt defense, with a game-high 11 tackles and two sacks by freshman Dan Mason, sunk the Midshipmen.
Mason started for sixth-year senior Adam Gunn, who had an ankle injury and was ruled out Friday after trying to practice all week. He should play in Pitt's next game Saturday at North Carolina State.
Notes: Pitt closed out the scoring with two Dan Hutchins field goals from 29 and 18 yards, as the Panthers kicked from the 1 after getting second-and-goal at the 2. ... Pitt is now 16-for-16 in the red zone. ... Mustakas had a career-best 10 tackles. ... The attendance was 55,064.