PITTSBURGH — Gold beat Blue, 23-14, in the Pitt spring game on the shoulders of 137 yards from scrimmage by wide receiver Quadree Henderson.
• Max Browne got off to a slow start that was hindered by some questionable protection and a couple of drops, but he got going by the fourth quarter, leading a late touchdown drive and connecting on a perfect 27-yard pass to Tre Tipton.
Browne was playing without either of his starting receivers, so it’s pretty hard to evaluate his performance. But his passes looked much better as the game went on. He finished the day 13 of 28 for 144 yards.
Ben DiNucci was incredibly efficient, going 5 for 5 for 60 yards. Kenny Pickett showed that he still has some things to work on in the passing game, particularly downfield, with a 6 of 13 for 36 yards day. But he was able to make contributions with his legs, rushing for 35 yards on four carries.
Thomas MacVittie attempted just one pass and was sacked twice on three drop-backs.
• Quadree Henderson might be even better this year. Pitt’s dynamic running and receiving threat was incredibly explosive, averaging almost 20 yards per touch. He made some absolutely electric moves on the edge and in space. He had 153 yards from scrimmage, and didn’t even get to contribute in the kicking game. Look out.
• Dane Jackson and Phillipie Motley are battling for a starting cornerback spot and they did well holding Gold receiver Jester Weah in check. The tall and speedy receiver represents a serious matchup issue, but Jackson and Motley held him to one catch. Jackson had four solo tackles and a pass breakup.
• Kicker Alex Kessman went 3 for 4 from 32, 35 and 38 yards. His only miss was from 60, and that had the leg, it was just wide right. It seems that the kicking game is in good hands following the graduation of Chris Blewitt.
• Attendance was 7,076.
More to come from Heinz Field.
3:12: Gold 23, Blue 14. Max Browne with a beautiful pass into the end zone and Tre Tipton reels it in with a diving over-the-shoulder catch for a touchdown. Browne then hits Rafael Araujo-Lopes for the two-point conversion. Browne went 4 for 4 on the drive. Onside kick time?
3:11: Blue is driving, with Max Browne connecting with Rueben Flowers for 32 yards and a first down, but they’re running out of time. Just 2:10 to go.
3:04: Gold 23, Blue 6. Kenny Pickett leads another scoring drive. This one is on a 35-yard field goal from Alex Kessman, who is 3 for 3.
3:00: Brian O’Neill comes off the field holding his right hand/arm. He has a seat at the training table.
2:58: Kenny Pickett completes to Jester Weah and then absorbs a late hit from Quinten Wirginis. 15-yard penalty and Pat Narduzzi expresses his displeasure.
2:55: Kenny Pickett continues to show off his wheels. His 16-yard scramble goes for a first down.
2:54: Blue coach Rob Harley has been issued a sideline warning. I’m sure Pat Narduzzi got a chuckle out of that.
2:53: Sweet Caroline.
2:46: Gold 20, Blue 6. Alex Kessman converts a 38-yard field goal to take advantage of the turnover.
2:43: Blue is hurting its own cause now. Jaryd Jones-Smith with a hold and an unsportsmanlike penalty and then some sloppy carrying after a catch by Rueben Flowers results in a fumble forced by Shaun Idowu and recovered by Bricen Garner.
2:33: Gold 17, Blue 6. Thomas Macvittie takes it in himself on a bootleg from 12 yards out to get Blue on the board. Ian Troost missed the extra point.
2:32: Chawntez Moss with back-to-back gains of 15 and 23 yards. He’s running hard.
2:28: Gold 17, Blue 0. Quadree Henderson with a 54-yard jet sweep to put Gold in scoring position on the first drive of the second half and then walk-0n Shawn Wood plunges is from 5 yards out.
2:20: Halftime stats:
Passing: DiNucci 3-3, 50 yards; Browne 6-18, 48 yards; Pickett 3-5, 14 yards
Rushing: Henderson 1 – 30, TD; Ollison 11 – 28; Pickett 3 – 19; Wood 1 – 9
Receiving: Henderson 5 – 53; Tipton 1 – 24; Ffrench 3 – 12, Flowers 2 – 12; Mathews 1 -11
Tackles: Stocker 6; Miller, Camp and Jackson 3; Weaver, Blair, Dorsey, Maddox 4
Sacks: Weaver, Blair, Brightwell, Edwards
PBU: Maddox 2, Whitehead
2:10: Alex Kessman attempts a 60-yard field goal as the first half expires. Might have had the distance, but it was wide right.
2:07: Saleem Brightwell sacks Max Browne and Browne’s fourth-down pass sails over the head of Rueben Flowers.
2:04: Gold goes three and out. Max Browne with a long pass to Tre Tipton has Blue in field goal range with 30 seconds to go.
2:00: The Blue drive stalls. Gold takes over in a 2-minute situation with a long field. Ben DiNucci on to try to lead it.
1:55: Max Browne to Maurice Ffrench down the right sideline for Blue’s first first down of the game. Then he hooks up with Rueben Flowers for another. Blue driving.
1:52: Gold 10, Blue 0: Alex Kessman drills a 32-yard field goal to cap off an 11-play, 31-yard scoring drive led by Kenny Pickett.
1:46: Kenny Pickett with another nice scramble, this one for 10 yards. He easily could have gone out of bounds but made a move and extended to the marker. It’s live tackling on the two freshmen, no contact for Browne and DiNucci.
1:42: The fourth drive for the blue team is the debut of Thomas MacVittie. MacVittie was sacked by Rori Blair and Rashad Weaver on his only two drop backs.
1:37: Max Browne tries a deep pass for Rafael Araujo-Lopes, but it clangs off his hands. Browne is 2 for 7 for negative-1 yard after three series.
1:35: Redshirt freshman Phil Campbell walks off slowly after an injury.
1:34 Kenny Pickett takes the second series for Gold. He had a nice scramble around the right side but was sacked on third down by Allen Edwards.
1:28: Avonte Maddox with another pass breakup of a Max Browne offering, this time tomahawking the ball out of the hands of Tre Tipton on third down. Browne is 1 for 4 for negative-4 yards.
1:23: GOLD TD: Ben DiNucci hooks up with Quadree Henderson for a 20-yard pass and then after a pass interference penalty, a Henderson jet sweep goes 36 yard for a touchdown. Fantastic move on the edge to break free. 7-0.
1:15: Max Browne and the Blue offense goes three and out. The first play was a flea-flicker. Browne had Maurice Ffrench open down field, but his pass was underthrown and broken up by Avonte Maddox.
The Blue-Gold Game will kick off at 1 p.m. I’ll have all in-game updates here in this space and then postgame coverage later tonight.
Here’s the rosters for Blue, coached by former Pitt defensive end and Indianapolis Colts defensive end Jabaal Sheard, and Gold, coached by former Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd.
If you’re not at the game and you want to know about how a certain player looks or a battle is shaping up, let me know in the comments.
The Sports Now network is growing! Check out our two new sites: PittsburghHockeyNow.com for the best Pittsburgh Penguins news and opinion and PiratesTalkNow.com for the latest on the Pittsburgh Pirates.