Pitt blows out Rice

Chris Peak, Publisher
Panther-lair

PRE-GAME

- Paris Ford is in uniform for the first time all season. He did not take any reps during 11-on-11 warmups, but being in uniform is a big step forward.

- Max Browne gets the start at quarterback after being the backup last week at Georgia Tech.

- Alex Bookser starts at right tackle and Brandon Hodges starts at right guard.

FIRST QUARTER

- Rice won the toss and elected to defer, kicking a touchback and giving Pitt the ball at the 25. The drive showed some promise, as the Panthers overcame a second-and-19 with a 14-yard pass from Browne to Jester Weah and a nine-yard throw over the middle to Aaron Mathews.

After Pitt crossed midfield, there was a down moment as George Aston, in line for his first extended playing time of the season after suffering an injury in training camp, was slow to get up and limped off the field.

On the next play, Browne rolled to his right and floated a pass to Chawntez Moss, who pulled it in for a 48-yard touchdown pass. The pass was well-thrown and Moss made a great catch for the score. Browne completed 4-of-4 passes for 81 yards and a score on the drive.

PITT 7, RICE 0 - 11:27, 1st quarter

- Rice managed to pick up one first down on its drive, converting a third-and-6 with a seven-yard pass. But a false start and some stout defense kept the Owls from moving the ball, and they had to punt.

- Pitt struck quickly on its next drive, as Browne hit Mathews for a 14-yard gain on first down and then, on first down from the Panthers' 45, he fired down the left sideline to a wide-open Weah, who ran in for an easy 55-yard touchdown.

PITT 14, RICE 0 - 6:18, 1st quarter

- Rice got another first down on its second drive, but that was it for the Owls again, as Pitt's defense kept the visitors out of sync, leading to a shanked punt that gave the Panthers the ball at the Rice 40.

- Pitt struck quickly once again, needing just five plays to get to the end zone. Browne completed a 15-yard shovel pass to Moss and then the running game took over, leading to a 10-yard scoring rush by Qadree Ollison

PITT 21, RICE 0 - 1:13, 1st quarter

- Rice's third drive was a three-and-out, as two incomplete passes bookended a botched shovel pass.

- Before the first quarter ended, Browne threw a shovel pass to Chris Clark, who ran six yards with it. That gave Browne 171 yards on 8-of-8 passing in the first quarter (plus two touchdowns, of course).

SECOND QUARTER

- Pitt continued to drive when the second quarter started, marching inside the Rice 5 before Moss fumbled at the 2. The Owls recovered.

- But 98 yards is too far for this Rice offense to drive, and while the Owls did manage to convert a third-and-9, Elias Reynolds blew up a flea-flicker to create a second-and-22 situation, and Rice had no chance after that. Two plays later, the Owls punted.

- Pitt's fifth possession followed the same course as its first four: steady movement down the field, minimal third downs and, as with the first three drives, a touchdown. Over the course of seven plays that gained 61 yards, Pitt faced just one third down, and the Panthers converted that one - a third-and-7 at the Rice 13 - with a 10-yard pass from Browne to Mathews.

Two plays later, Moss went in for his second touchdown.

PITT 28, RICE 0 - 2:02, 2nd quarter

- Rice's fifth drive also looked like the four that preceded it, as the Owls went three-and-out with gaining much.

- Pitt saved its worst drive for the final possession of the half. On first down from the Panthers 21, Browne went deep for Weah, who had his hands on the football but dropped it. On second down, backup right guard Mike Herndon let a defender get to Browne for an 11-yard sack. And on third down, an ill-advised and ill-executed option pitch from Browne bounced off Ollison's helmet to lead to Pitt's first punt of the game.

- Rice got the ball back with a few seconds left on the clock and tried a deep heave, but Damar Hamlin made his first career interception to end the half.

In the first two quarters, Browne threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-16 passing and Pitt has 320 yards of total offense. Rice, on the other hand, had 60 yards of total offense.

Here are the first half stats:

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THIRD QUARTER

- After deferring to start the game, Rice received the kickoff to open the third quarter, and it was the Owls' best offensive showing of the game, as they hit on four double-digit gains and got a hands to the face penalty on Dewayne Hendrix to move into Pitt territory for the first time.

Things stalled inside the 5, though. A sweep on first down from the 5 was stopped for a two-yard loss, and subsequent passes were both knocked down, forcing Rice to kick a 23-yard field goal.

PITT 28, RICE 3 - 9:31, 3rd quarter

- Pitt's offense looked like it was going to pick up where it was in the first half on its first drive of the third quarter when the Panthers drove over midfield with relative ease. But on third-and-2 from the Rice 42, Moss was stopped for a one-yard gain, and he was dropped for a loss on fourth-and-1.

- Pitt's defense didn't let Rice get any momentum from the fourth-down stop, though, forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing possession. But the Panthers' offense responded with its own three-and-out when the run-run-pass fell apart due to a coverage sack on third-and-9, leading to another Pitt punt.

- On Rice's next possession, the Owls finally made a big play. On first down, quarterback Jackson Tyner threw to receiver Austin Walter, who made one man miss and took off for a 70-yard touchdown.

PITT 28, RICE 10 - 0:32, 3rd quarter

- Browne hit Matt Flanagan for a five-yard pass on the final play of the third quarter, but the redshirt senior quarterback looked for Weah, his redshirt senior receiver, when the fourth quarter started, hitting a pair of nice floating passes that Weah grabbed by using his size and speed. Those two passes gained 58 yards and set Pitt up at the Rice 1.

A pair of runs gained nothing, but on third-and-goal from the 1, Browne hit Darrin Hall on the edge of the end zone for a third touchdown pass.

PITT 35, RICE 10 - 12:22, 4th quarter

- Rice's offense looked like it might drive again, starting at its own 23 and move into Pitt territory. But on a third-and-14 attempt from the Panthers 36, Tyner threw down the left sideline, and Dane Jackson picked it off.

- Pitt's offense capitalized on the turnover, as Browne completed 7-of-8 passes, including a seven-yard touchdown pass to Chris Clark.

PITT 42, RICE 10 - 4:39, 4th quarter

- With the game firmly in hand, Pitt went to its backup defense and still forced a three-and-out on Rice. The Panthers also brought in the second-team offense for their next drive, and it produced the same results: a three-and-out.

For Rice's final possession, Tyner tried a heave down the right side, but the pass was underthrown and Dennis Briggs made an easy interception.

- Browne finished the game with 410 yards and four touchdowns on 28-of-32 passing, while Pitt's defense held Rice to 277 yards of total offense.

PITT 42, RICE 10 - Final

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