PITTSBURGH (AP) – Kenny Pickett passed for a career-high 321 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown to Maurice Ffrench, to lead Pittsburgh to a 20-10 win over Ohio on Saturday.
A week after getting sacked four times and barely completing half of his attempts in a loss to Virginia, Pickett fared far better in his second game trying to run new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s pass-heavy offense. Pickett completed 26 of 37 passes and looked far more comfortable against the Bobcats.
Ffrench finished with 10 receptions for 138 yards. His long catch-and-run early in the second quarter gave Pitt (1-0) a 10-point lead the Panthers never came close to squandering. A.J. Davis ran for 89 yards for Pitt and Vincent Davis added 50 on the ground, including his first career touchdown that put the Panthers up 17-0.
That was more than enough cushion for a defense that kept the Bobcats (1-1) in check. Defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman finished with three of Pitt’s six sacks as the Panthers never let Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke get going.
Rourke hit on 15 of 27 passes for 177 yards and couldn’t make anything happen with his legs. Rourke, who ran for 75 yards in Ohio’s season opener against Rhode Island, finished with minus-43 yards on the ground. The Bobcats finished with 35 yards rushing on 29 attempts, with no rush gaining more than eight yards.
Ohio’s only real push came late in the third quarter when De’Montre Tuggle’s 7-yard touchdown run drew the Bobcats within 10. Ohio would get no closer. The Bobcats managed just one first down over their final three drives and Pitt’s size advantage up front wore Ohio down.
The Panthers took over at the Pitt 7 with 7:05 remaining and never let the Bobcats get the ball back, bleeding the clock behind an offensive line that pushed Ohio around until the clock hit zero.
Ohio: The Bobcats might be the preseason favorites in the MAC but the secondary could be an issue. Ohio let FCS-level Rhode Island pile up 291 yards through the air in Week 1 and again looked shaky at best against an offense that underwhelmed in a season-opening loss to Virginia.
Pitt: Even without starting linemen Rashad Weaver and Keyshon Camp – both of whom are out for the season with knee injuries – the defense could still be dangerous. The loss to Virginia had more to do with mistakes by the offense and special teams – all three Cavalier touchdown drives were 35 yards or less – and Ohio struggled to generate any rhythm with Rourke under duress most of the day.
Ohio: The Bobcats travel to Marshall next Saturday, the return of the “Battle for the Bell.” Ohio leads the all-time series 33-20, including a victory in 2015 in the last game between the two schools.
Pitt: Visits 15th-ranked Penn State next Saturday in the final game of a four-game renewal of the in-state rivalry. The Nittany Lions have won the last two meetings by a combined 84-20.
(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)