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Bennett rushes Pitt past Old Dominion

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Junior running back Isaac Bennett rushed for a career-high 240 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead Pitt past Old Dominion 35-24 Saturday night at Heinz Field.

Bennett scored on runs of 25, 3 and 16 yards for the Panthers (4-2), who bounced back for a non-conference victory after losing at Atlantic Coast Conference rival Virginia Tech last week.

Old Dominion (4-3), which is transitioning from FCS to FBS this season, had its four-game winning streak snapped and fell to 0-3 against FBS foes.

Bennett got the bulk of the carries because co-starter James Conner missed the game with a shoulder injury. He carried 30 times and bested his previous career high of 101 yards by halftime.

"The line went out there and attacked it," Bennett said. "I just followed behind."

After rushing for just 23 yards against Virginia Tech the Panthers averaged 5.9 yards per carry against the Monarchs.

"We ran the ball hard," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. "Our guys did pretty well up front. Isaac Bennett ran the ball well. You are always hoping you can get something going in the run game. We were hoping to be able to run the ball and keep the ball away from them and eat up the clock. Our guys worked their tails off to make that happen."

Old Dominion outgained Pitt, 405-370. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke passed for 312 yards and two touchdowns and kept his team competitive after a couple of blowout losses to FBS foes East Carolina and Maryland to open the season.

The Monarchs were doomed by 14 penalties for 109 yards.

"I felt like our offense played well all game," Heinicke said. "I feel like we moved the ball really well. I feel like the only thing that beat us was ourselves with the penalties. We had a bunch of false starts, a bunch of holds. Other than, I think we moved the ball really well and played really well."

Pitt led 21-10 at halftime and boosted the lead to 28-10 after tight end Manasseh Garner reeled in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Tom Savage with 9:37 left in the third quarter. Just when it seemed like the Panthers were going to pull away, Old Dominion scored two touchdowns in the span of 1:35 to cut the lead to 28-24.

Junior receiver Blair Roberts caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Heinicke to make it 28-17 with 6:10 remaining in the third quarter. The Monarchs got the ball back when kicker Jarod Brown perfectly executed an onside kick. Five plays later, Antonio Vaughan ran in from 17 yards out to cut the lead to four.

Pitt scored an insurance touchdown early in the fourth quarter with a couple of assists from Old Dominion. Savage scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to a cap a five-play, 47-yard drive that was helped along by 35 penalty yards on the Monarchs.

Freshman linebacker Richie Staton was twice flagged for 15-yard penalties on the drive, including a roughing the passer on a third-down pass attempt that fell incomplete near midfield. Instead of getting the ball back with a chance to take the lead, the Monarchs fell behind by 11 and were not able to recover from the mistakes.

"That was the key drive right there," Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder said. "We blitzed on that play and we got to Tom. We got him out of the pocket. He was clearly throwing the ball out of bounds.

"We had two freshmen out there. They're excited, playing hard. They just don't know at this point when to pull off. That's something we're trying to teach them. That was a critical mistake there. I feel like it turned the game. We had momentum. That one flipped the momentum back around to Pittsburgh's side."

After spotting Old Dominion a 10-0 lead, Pitt scored three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 21-10 lead into halftime.

After being held to three first downs and 45 yards in the first quarter, Bennett's 25-yard run with 12:22 remaining in the second quarter cut Old Dominion's lead to 10-7.

Pitt scored again 4:18 later on a Bennett 3-yard run that was set up by a 56-yard punt return by Kevin Weatherspoon to the Old Dominion 12. Bennett's final touchdown of the half came with 36 seconds left before halftime and capped a six-play, 63-yard drive.

Old Dominion scored a touchdown on the opening drive after a face-mask penalty on Pitt cornerback K'Waun Williams on third-and-8 gave them a first down at the Pitt 15. Two plays later, Heinicke threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Marquel Thomas.

With 51 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Brown kicked a 54-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead. It was the longest field goal in the 12-year history of Heinz Field, besting the 52-yard record that was shared by Kevin Harper of Pitt and Jeff Reed of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NOTES: Pitt senior WR Devin Street will have to wait until next week to try to become the school's all-time leader in receptions. Street, who has 177 career receptions and needs three to break the mark held by Latef Grim, did not play due to a shoulder injury... Pitt senior DT Aaron Donald entered the game the nation's active leader in career sacks with 26 1/2. That was tied for fourth most all-time at Pitt.
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