PITTSBURGH — It may not have been the prettiest game at times, but Pitt was in control right from the first snap against Wofford Saturday afternoon.
Pitt kicked off its 2023 season with a 45-7 win over Wofford at Acrisure Stadium, nearly its first shutout since a season-opening stomp of Austin Peay in 2020, on the heels of a thoroughly dominant defensive effort across all three levels. Wofford was held to just 126 yards (75 of which came on a very late touchdown pass).
Pitt outgained Wofford (491-126), out-possessed Wofford (41:33-18:27) and did what it needed to do in a season-opening win.
Phil Jurkovec threw for 214 yards and a touchdown and ran for 41 more and another touchdown in his Pitt debut, playing just three quarters before Christian Veilleux finished the game, and Pitt’s defense smothered the Wofford offense right from the first snap.
It took a bit of time for the offense to start clicking, but after a very vanilla opening drive, Phil Jurkovec started to look more like the quarterback Pitt hoped he would be.
He led the Pitt offense on four consecutive touchdown drives after an opening drive punt. He didn’t throw any of those four touchdowns, but he did run for one — a 23-yard read option in which he fooled the entire Wofford defense and jogged into the end zone. He completed passes to seven different targets before finally hitting Konata Mumpfield for their second connection.
Pitt waltzed into the locker room at the half leading 28-0, with Jurkovec having completed 10-of-12 passes for 145 yards — adding 23 yards and a score on the ground. It was a solid start for the offense, but it was near perfection from the defense.
Deandre Jules showcased right away why he earned so much praise this summer. He blew up the first Wofford offensive snap, darting past the guard and forcing Wofford quarterback Bryce Corriston right into Dayon Hayes’ waiting arms. And he followed up with another explosive tackle for loss, dragging Wofford running back Ryan Ingram down for a four-yard loss.
The defense completely overwhelmed the Wofford offense throughout the first half, limiting the Terriers to just 34 yards in the half (one rushing yard) and sacked Wofford quarterback Bryce Corriston three times and racked up for tackles for loss.
Rodney Hammond Jr. opened the scoring for Pitt, scampering into the end zone from 10 yards out to cap a nine-play drive.
Hammond actually looked like he was going to score a few plays earlier, on the receiving end of a nice bit of improv from Jurkovec, but the ball bounced off his hands as he ran down the sideline. And he made up for it.
And Jurkovec’s integration into the offense continued quickly, following a fumble recovery by Bam Brima off a botched handoff. A couple of quick runs setting up Jurkovec’s rushing touchdown.
The offense continued to open up as the second quarter wore on, with Jurkovec hitting Konata Mumpfield, Jake Renda and Gavin Bartholomew on nice gains. A fumbled snap on the goal line could’ve spelled disaster, but Daniel Carter scooped it up and carried it in himself to make it 21-0 midway through the second quarter.
And as the first half came to a close, Jurkovec really started to click with his wideouts, hitting passes of 21, 16 and 18 yards to set up another Hammond rushing touchdown late in the second quarter.
Pitt entered the halftime break with a 28-0 lead, and came out in the third quarter with an 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by Jurkovec’s first passing touchdown at Pitt, a 1-yard toss to Karter Johnson on a scramble drill. And the “first-team” offense added more scoring drive — a 26-yard field goal from Ben Sauls — before Christian Veilleux entered the game.
A large number of true freshmen got into the game late, with Kenny Johnson and Zion Fowler-El recording their first catches, and Montravius Lloyd receiving a few carries — and a catch of his own. Isaiah Neal and Braylan Lovelace also some snaps late, sliding into the defensive formation.
And Veilleux got into the scoring himself, tossing a 39-yard touchdown to Jake McConnachie late in the fourth quarter, pushing Pitt’s lead to 45 with just under a minute and a half left in the game.
A very late Wofford touchdown, which looked to be offensive pass interference from the box, was far too little, far too late for the Terriers.
It was about as solid a game as Pitt could’ve hoped for in its season opener, but it will be much tougher competition as Cincinnati comes to town next weekend, with a 6:30 p.m. kickoff scheduled at Acrisure Stadium.