Pitt came into today's game heavily favored to beat Rice and after a 42-10 win, they did just that.
There are two sides of the game - first that the Panthers looked good today and second, that they were supposed to. Pitt moved the ball much better on offense, scoring 42 points.
The big discussion today will be about Max Browne playing quarterback and he deserves a lot of credit for playing well. His accuracy was spot on all day and even his most ardent detractors couldn't say otherwise. He was 28-32 on the day for 410 yards and four touchdown passes. I'd have to go back and review the game but I think that his four incompletions were all the results of drops. At least three were, anyway. He just played about as perfect a game as you could reasonably ask. I thought Pitt should have started DiNucci and I think there are still going to be questions about Browne once you see the Panthers go up against better competition. But in the scope of today, Browne had an absolutely fantastic game and made the decision to start him look like a great one.
That ties into what I said earlier this week about Pitt needing to take some shots downfield. We saw exactly that, which was really encouraging. Wide receiver Jester Weah looked like his old self with five catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. His score came after juking a defender out of his shoes and getting wide open for a 55-yard grab. Pitt's scoring also opened with a 48-yard touchdown to running back Chawntez Moss on a long throw. The Panthers took a few more deep shots and that was encouraging.
Defensively, the play was solid as well. Damar Hamlin had a breakdown in the secondary and gave up a long touchdown pass but that was really it. Pitt picked off three passes, gave up a total of only 55 rushing yards, and generally didn't allow Rice to do anything.
There was a comment early in the broadcast that said Pitt seemed to know what was coming up every time. That couldn't have been said any better. Pitt's players seemed to be in position so much that it was sort of uncanny. There wasn't a ton of pressure on the quarterback and that's been no different than what we've seen most of this season. But overall, ten points, turnovers, and causing a lot of offensive frustration is hard to complain about.
Looking for a negative? Okay, here goes.
For as well as Pitt threw the ball, they couldn't run at all. All told, Pitt had 33 rushes for only 69 yards and a terrible 2.1 ypc average. Now, that's a little misleading since it factored in four sacks taken by Browne for a loss of 22 yards. But even if you take that out of the equation, the running game was still awful. Moss, Qadree Ollison, and A.J. Davis ran the ball 22 times for only 45 yards. Keep in mind, that's despite the fact that the team had a great passing attack today, which usually opens things up.
I've mentioned this before, but I'm convinced the running woes are more on the offensive line not opening enough holes and less about the talent of the backs. Ollison and Moss may not be great but they also have both had some success in the past.
That the team couldn't run against even Rice should sound the alarm that problems could lie ahead. Pitt won't always be able to throw the ball with such ease that they did today and if they can't run at all, I don't know how they win more difficult games.
All told, though, today was exactly what the team needed to do. Hopefully they can get some momentum going and carry it into next week against Syracuse.