When watching Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba torch the Utah secondary in the Rose Bowl Saturday afternoon, finishing off a spectacular day with 347 yards and three touchdowns on 15 receptions, I couldn’t help but marvel at his magnificence.
I also couldn’t help but wonder just what we would’ve seen from Jordan Addison against Michigan State’s secondary in the Peach Bowl if Kenny Pickett — or even Nick Patti — had played the entire game.
To be fair, yes, Addison committed a couple of surprising drops, but he also provided Pitt with its entire offense for the night. And even head coach Pat Narduzzi admitted he wished Pitt could’ve gotten Addison the ball more over the course of the night.
“I don’t know what hasn’t been said about him,” Narduzzi said Thursday night after the Peach Bowl. “Winning a Biletnikoff. Wish he’d had more than seven catches. Probably should have got him the ball more, just couldn’t get it to him enough. In the second half, the play was just to have Davis look to find No. 3 and throw it to him, let him go make a play.”
With Pickett having opted out before the Peach Bowl, Nick Patti was expected to step in and showcase what he’d learned over two seasons backing up Pickett. Instead, after two series, Patti exited the game with a shoulder injury and redshirt freshman Davis Beville entered the game.
With Beville entering the first major game of his career, and Pitt’s offensive line wearing down against Michigan State’s pass rush, Addison’s first-half impact was limited to a 52-yard catch and run that highlighted his elusiveness and the Spartans’ inept pass coverage.
There's your Biletnikoff Award winner!
52 yards for 3️⃣ to set up the TD 🙌
Jordan Addison » @Espn_Jordan
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) December 31, 2021
Pitt’s second-half offense was somehow worse, failing to make an impact until late in the fourth after Michigan State had taken a lead. Pitt’s second half offensive possessions went punt, punt, punt punt, interception after Pitt’s defense scored a touchdown on the first possession of the second half.
However, on Pitt’s final possession, with a chance to either tie or go ahead, it was Addison who made an impact. With a fourth-and-eight from deep within Pitt territory, third-string quarterback Davis Beville hit Addison over the middle and Addison did enough to dive across the line to gain to pick up eight yards.
On Pitt’s next play, Addison somehow escaped the Michigan State defense and found space to convert a 24-yard pass right through the heart of the Spartans’ defense. And, with a first-and-ten from the MSU 26, with 22 seconds left, Beville had eyes for only Addison.
But Michigan State’s Cal Haliday read Beville’s eyes and undercut his pass, picking off his pass and returned it 78 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.
Pitt may have lost the Peach Bowl, but Addison made Pitt history. With seven catches against Michigan State, he broke the 100-catch barrier and became the first Panther to do so.
With 100 receptions for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns, Addison completed the second-best season in Pitt history for a wide receiver — and the holder of the best season offered his praise.
100+ more to come next season congratulations on an amazing year. Excited about what the future holds for you and the program in general.
— Larry Fitzgerald (@LarryFitzgerald) December 31, 2021
Pitt legend Larry Fitzgerald caught 92 passes for 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2003, being robbed of the Heisman Trophy by Oklahoma’s Jason White. Addison surpassed Fitzgerald’s reception mark, but he couldn’t quite reach his yards and touchdowns.
But even after a Biletnikoff-winning season, Fitzgerald fully expects a massive season from Addison in 2022.
“100+ more to come next season congratulations on an amazing year. Excited about what the future holds for you and the program in general,” Fitzgerald wrote in a Twitter post.
160 receptions for 2,259 yards and 21 touchdowns through two seasons, Addison still has three seasons of eligibility left in college football. But he’s already sixth in career receptions and touchdowns. He owns the single season record for receptions.
Addison finished second in single-season receiving yards and touchdowns behind Fitzgerald, but with another Biletnikoff-worthy season, he’ll challenge for all Pitt wide receiver stats — and he’ll have an additional two seasons of eligibility.
Addison will be the key piece of Pitt’s once-again loaded offense, but despite being the known factor in every opposing team’s game plan, it’s unlikely any team will be able to stop him.