PITTSBURGH — Kedon Slovis was the headliner for the 2022 Blue-Gold Spring Game, but it was Daniel Carter and the collective Pitt defense that shined at Heinz Field Saturday.
A Ben Sauls field goal was the difference Saturday as Carter scored a touchdown for both the Blue and Gold teams, but the Gold team escaped with a 10-7 win over the Blue team as Sam Scarton’s game-tying 56-yarder at the horn fell short. And, of course, a stifling defensive effort from the Gold defense helped.
If anyone thought that Pitt may come out with some conservative play-calling to open the game, a first play play-action, rollout from Patti sets those thoughts aside.
Patti hit a streaking Konata Mumpfield over the top, with Mumpfield slipping in behind Erick Hallett across the middle, for a 55-yard strike. The Gold team was unable to find the end zone, with a couple of drops off the hands of Jake Renda and Jared Wayne resulting in a 41-yard field goal from Sauls.
The Blue offense wasn’t able to replicate the same deep ball magic on their first drive, but Daniel Carter did a nice job bouncing off would-be tacklers for a screen gain to start off a strong day. However, the Gold defense — John Morgan creating his first of three first half QB hits — was able to force a punt.
The Blue defense returned the favor as Dayon Hayes and Bangally Kamara created enough pressure to force a third down sack and subsequent punt. Shayne Simon forced the first turnover of the game on the Blue teams’ ensuing drive, snagging Kedon Slovis’s pass out of the air to set up the Gold team inside Blue team territory. But Calijah Kancey’s third down sack for the Blue team defense resulted in no points.
Slovis was able to drive the Blue offense down the field, even setting up Jaylon Barden with a nice over-the-shoulder throw in the corner of the end zone but it wasn’t hauled in, and a 37-yard Sam Scarton field goal attempt sailed wide.
The Gold team opened up by once again letting it rip through the air, with a nice catch from Jared Wayne against new safety Khalil Anderson and a quick cut-back juke on Nick Lapi to pick up 43 yards, and Carter’s strong day — playing for Blue and Gold — continued with a nine-yard touchdown run a few plays later. With a 10-0 lead, both teams trotted into lockers for the half.
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The Blue team offense took the field to start the second half, with Slovis still under center, but the Blue team offensive line still couldn’t figure out how to deal with the Gold team’s relentless defensive line.
Nahki Johnson and Kamara with back-to-back sacks on Patti on the ensuing drive killed any chance for Gold team success, giving a potential glimpse into the future, but the Blue team offense couldn’t capitalize with Joey Yellen in for Patti.
A fumbled snap on Yellen’s first play was recovered by Devin Danielson, and Carter scored his second touchdown of the day — first for the Blue team — on an 11-yard rumble up the middle to narrow the score to 10-7 late in the third quarter.
And, with a missed Sauls 49-yard field goal to open the fourth quarter, the Blue team had a chance. Eli Kosanovich entered the game for the Blue team, taking over for Slovis, but a failed fourth down conversion ended the drive.
And as the walk-ons entered the game, with Kosanovich and Jake Frantl playing, the offenses stalled out as the defenses took over. Jehvonn Lewis, with a hurry forced by Bam Brima, picked off Kosanovich. With a chance to lead the Blue team on a game-winning drive, Kosanovich and the offense fell short.
Carter was the best offensive player for both the Blue and Gold teams, racking up 72 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries while playing for both. He also took his lone reception nine yards. It was a strong performance for one of Pitt’s 2022 Ed Conway Award winners.
Patti finished the day with 108 yards on 4-of-9 passing attempts (a 55-yard toss to Mumpfield and a 43-yard toss to Wayne) and looked like the best quarterback on the field.
Slovis’s ho-hum day of 10-for-21 with 64 yards and an interception (and a dropped interception from M.J. Devonshire that could’ve gone for six) didn’t inspire much confidence, but he wasn’t given much to work with as the offensive line was continually beaten down and Jaylon Barden struggled with some drops.
Morgan, along with almost all of Pitt’s defensive linemen, impressed Saturday. He recorded five tackles (four solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and three QB hits. Simon, Lewis and Danielson forced the game’s three turnovers. And the trio of Kamara, Simon and Solomon DeShields all flashed at points throughout the game.
While it would be easy to overreact after a spring game in which it was basically two-hand touch for the starters, there are some takeaways that hold merit to be found. Pitt’s next game is back at Heinz Field on Thursday, Sept. 1 against West Virginia in a renewal of the Backyard Brawl.