DETROIT — Pitt’s offense made history in the Panthers’ trip to the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl.
In the second quarter of what became a 34-30 win over Eastern Michigan, quarterback Kenny Pickett hit Maurice Ffrench for the longest passing play in program history, a 96-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
Pitt was backed up to its own 4-yard line when offensive coordinator Mark Whipple called for a play-action pass. Pickett dummied the defense and then found Ffrench in stride at the 35-yard line. He outran one Eastern Michigan defender and then juked around another one, going all the way to pay dirt for a game-tying touchdown.
— SBR Sports Picks (@SBRSportsPicks) December 27, 2019
Pickett said the play was something they had installed during bowl practice and he felt confident that it could go for a big gain.
“That’s what you’re hoping, yeah,” Pickett said. “In that situation, we do a little sudden change when you’re backed up. We practiced that play multiple times throughout this whole bowl week prep. We put that in. Originally, Shocky [Jacques-Louis] ran it a bunch before. I was just excited when I saw Maurice in there because of how good of a route runner he is. I saw the backside safety bite on the drag route and I just put it out there for Maurice and just let him do his thing.”
The play became the longest passing play in Panthers history, breaking a 27-year-old mark. Alex Van Pelt’s 91-yard pass to Dietrich Wells in 1992 had been the previous longest Pitt passing play.
In the fourth quarter, Pickett found Ffrench again for his ninth catch of the game, giving him 93 on the season to break Larry Fitzgerald’s program record for catches in a season. Fitzgerald had 92 in 2003.
“Maurice Ffrench had a heck of a year,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “That’s with missing a couple games, as well. Just think if he’d plays those other two games. He fought back with that broken jaw and that 96-yarder topped it off. That was beautiful.”
Ffrench finished with 12 catches for 165 yards to lead all Pitt receivers in the game, his final as a Pitt wide receiver.