PITTSBURGH — Pat Narduzzi said during his Monday press conference this week that he did not need starting quarterback Kenny Pickett to be “Kenny Perfect.”
Pickett was not perfect in Pitt’s 33-7 shellacking of Albany in the Panthers’ season opener at Heinz Field on Saturday. But he was close.
The sophomore quarterback, making just his second career start went 13 for 13 in the first half on the way to a throwing for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Pickett also scored another with his legs.
His perfect day was eventually foiled in the second half with a couple incompletions and an interception on a batted ball.
But the Pitt quarterback did more than enough to show that his breakout performance to close the 2017 against Miami was far from a fluke.
Pickett was gifted an early lead as the Panthers got the game out to the best possible start, with Maurice Ffrench taking the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown. It was the first opening kickoff touchdown for the Panthers since Quadree Henderson’s in the 2015 Military Bowl against Navy.
On Albany’s first drive, the Great Danes were moving the ball until Damar Hamlin intercepted the ball inside the Pitt five yard line and returned it 79 yards, setting the offense up with golden field position. Pickett cashed in with a five-yard keeper off the left side.
After an Albany punt, Pickett led the Panthers down the field on a 9-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a nine-yard jet sweep off the left side by Ffrench.
Albany scored at the end of the first half when Vincent Testaverde threaded a pass through Hamlin to Dev Holmes.
In the second quarter, it was more Pickett, as he found senior wide receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes for a pair of touchdowns.
LB Elias Reynolds (undisclosed), RB Todd Sibley (undisclosed), S Rimoni Dorsey (right foot/ankle), WR Michael Vardzel (left arm) and QB Jeff George, Jr. (ineligible) did not dress.
RT Alex Bookser, CB Dane Jackson, CB Jason Pinnock and S Phil Campbell dressed but did not play. DE Dewayne Hendrix (right leg) left the game and did not return.
Two true freshmen played: WR Shocky Jacques-Louis and CB Marquis Williams.