Vincent Davis’s 18-yard touchdown dash late in the fourth quarter seemingly ended the game against Rhode Island Saturday, but there was still some action ahead.
Ben Sauls was run into on Pitt’s point-after attempt, pushing Pitt’s lead to 45-24 with just 1:11 left in the game, and with Sauls — Pitt’s usual kickoff specialist — on the sideline, Caleb Junko trotted out onto the field for the kickoff.
Instead of kicking it deep, Junko ran a surprise onside kick attempt — following Rhode Island’s on the prior possession — and recovered the football himself. He even was able to dunk on the Turnover Hoop.
There was some wonder as to whether or not Junko went rouge on the onside kick, as Pat Narduzzi and Andre Powell were seen “talking” with Junko directly following the attempt, but Narduzzi said it was Pitt’s play design.
“Yeah, it’s something we called,” Narduzzi said after the game. “Obviously, you got the ball at the 50-yard line, we can kick it deep. The first time we had that earlier in the year, I forget what game it was, Tennessee or whatever, we kicked it deep, but someone has got to be aware of that kick, and you got the ball at the 50-yard line, there’s not much risk after a 15-yarder for roughing our kicker on the one.
“Junko hadn’t gotten a lot of reps at it, either. So, kudos to not Coach Junko, to Coach Junko’s grandson, for executing that properly.”
Junko, a walk-on redshirt freshman from Akron, Ohio, did not see the field last season, so Saturday’s onside kick was his first taste of actual in-game action.
The onside kick recovery, recovered by himself, allowed a couple of kneel downs to end non-conference play with a 45-24 win over Rhode Island. Pitt kicks off ACC play next weekend at home against Georgia Tech.