Pitt wide receiver D.J. Turner was called on to replace Jordan Addison as the Panthers’ starting slot receiver on Saturday, and he rose to the occasion, amassing more than 180 yards for the second time this season. The Maryland transfer also came within one reception of tying a program record set 52 years ago and helped the Panthers secure a decisive 47-14 win over Virginia Tech.
All told, Turner racked up 184 yards and one touchdown on 15 receptions on Saturday. He also added 19 yards on kick returns, bringing his total all-purpose yardage to 203 on the day. The game was his second best of the year from a personal standpoint, as he had 223 all-purpose yards against NC State on Oct. 3.
“He was phenomenal,” Narduzzi said of Turner in his postgame press conference. “We didn’t have Jordan Addison, and he took over that slot position, which I think the last time he did it we should have beat North Carolina State, if I recall. D.J. is a football player. Senior Day for him. He was outstanding, making people miss and just getting the tough yards. He had some big conversions on third down.”
As Narduzzi alluded to, Turner was able to accrue so much yardage because of his ability to elude defenders, break tackles and rack up yards after catches. As a result of his playmaking ability, he became a favorite target of Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, and there was little the Virginia Tech defense could do to derail the Pitt offense once the Pickett-to-Turner connection was forged.
The 5’9”, 205-pound wide receiver chipped away at the Virginia Tech defense all day, as he came up with 15 receptions. That total was the second highest ever accrued by a Pitt receiver in a single game. The record, which is 16, was set by former Pitt receiver Harry Orszulak in a 65-9 loss to Penn State on Nov. 23, 1968. Turner also surpassed the career highs of Tyler Boyd, Antonio Bryant and Larry Fitzgerald.
But aside from the number of catches he came up with, what was impressive about Turner’s performance was the consistency with which he came up with key plays. Specifically, of his 15 receptions, 10 provided Pitt with first downs and one put six points on the board. So when the ball was in Turner’s hands, Pitt was almost always moving in the right direction.
Turner’s reliable play proved vital to the outcome of the Virginia Tech matchup, and the receiver may well be called on to put on a similar performance against Clemson this Saturday, as Narduzzi expressed uncertainty that Addison would return for the game during a press conference on Monday. If it comes to pass that Addison cannot play, Turner will once again stand in for him in the slot, and once again, much will likely hinge on his play.