PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jester Weah hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass on the opening possession of overtime to give Pittsburgh the lead and Bricen Garner picked off Youngstown State’s Hunter Wells in the end zone to help the Panthers hold off Youngstown State 28-21 in the opener for both teams on Saturday.
Pitt (1-0) blew a 21-point point halftime lead and was dominated in the second half by the Penguins (0-1) before Weah’s acrobatic grab and the first pick of Garner’s career helped the Panthers escape.
Qadree Ollison ran for 91 yards and two touchdowns for Pitt. Max Browne struggled in his debut at quarterback after transferring from USC, completing 17 of 24 passes for 140 yards and the winning touchdown.
Wells passed for 311 yards and a pair of scores to running back Christian Turner, but Youngstown State’s bid to upset the Panthers for the second time in six seasons ended when Wells overthrew a pass to the end zone and Garner hauled it in.
Youngstown State: The Penguins are eyeing a return trip to the Football Championship Subdivision title game. If they can play with the resilience they showed after trailing by three touchdowns on the road against a Power 5 team, they’ll be another tough out if they reach the playoffs.
Pitt: It’s far too early to get any sort of read on Browne or new offensive coordinator Shawn Watson as the Panthers kept things simple while being careful not to show too much ahead of next week’s trip to sixth-ranked Penn State. The offensive line is going to need to shore things up after allowing the Penguins to make things far too uncomfortable far too often.
Youngstown State: Welcomes Robert Morris in its 2017 home opener next Saturday. The Penguins have won both of the previous meetings with the Colonials, including a 38-6 victory last season.
Pitt: The Panthers provided an early jolt to their renewed rivalry with Penn State last year, edging the Nittany Lions in a 42-39 thriller. The rematch awaits in Happy Valley next Saturday.
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