PITTSBURGH — Pitt’s secondary has been much maligned over the last few seasons. The Panthers finished 127th in the nation in pass defense a year ago, and didn’t get off to a great start against Youngstown State on Saturday.
But when the Panthers desperately needed a big play in overtime, they got one as redshirt freshman safety Bricen Garner intercepted Penguins quarterback Hunter Wells to secure a 28-21 Panthers victory.
Garner, a Central Catholic alum, was making his first start while playing in his first game with the Panthers and capped it off in memorable fashion.
In the first half, the game did not look like it would need a dramatic finish. But after building an early three-touchdown lead, Pitt’s offense sputtered and stuttered to a scoreless second half.
Finally, after several fits and starts, the offense put another drive together in overtime, when Max Browne connected on his first touchdown pass with the Panthers on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jester Weah in the corner of the end zone.
Qadree Ollison scored a pair of early touchdowns and true freshman A.J. Davis added another as the Pitt offense rolled in the early going.
After scoring on each of their first three drives, the Panthers took the ball away from Quadree Henderson and instead pounded the rock. They finished regulation with 27 pass attempts and 44 rushes, but the ratio was even more lopsided than that earlier.
Redshirt freshman kicker Alex Kessman had two chances to give the Panthers the winning margin in regulation, but missed field goals of 28 and 38 yards, the latter of which as time expired in regulation.
Davis was one of five true freshmen to make their Pitt debuts. Long snapper Cal Adomitis, cornerbacks Damarri Mathis and Jason Pinnock and tight end Tyler Sear also took of their redshirts.
Pitt suffered three injuries, as Ollison, defensive tackle Keyshon Camp and cornerback Avonte Maddox all left the field, but all three returned to action.