Pitt showcases offensive stars in Blue/Gold game

The Gold team defeated the Blue team 31-21 in front of 5,303 fans at North Hills High School's Martorelli Stadium. The offense looked to be a good deal ahead of the defensive unit as several players stood out with exceptional performances.

Offense

Billy Gaines was the star of the show with 5 catches for 109 yards and 1 TD, plus 51 yards rushing on two reverses. Gaines showed off his excellent hands and ball skills as he adjusted to the ball in the air several times to beat out his defender to make the catch.

A close second to Gaines was wide receiver Chris Curd. Chris had 2 catches for 38 yards, and also had 21 yards rushing on a reverse. Chris also showed great hands, as well as concentration going up and getting the ball in traffic. Curd has the size (6-3/215) to be another dangerous weapon for the Panthers' offensive attack this season.

Joe Stephens also impressed with 3 catches for 58 yards and 1 TD. Throughout the game, Stephens showed soft hands and the ability to separate from his defender. Steve Buches, who is coming off a redshirt year, added 3 catches for 41 yards and 1 TD. Buches can catch the ball in traffic and may have the best hands of any tight end on the team. Kris Wilson had a terrific day also as he finished with 6 catches for 93 yards. Wilson has the size and speed to cause matchup problems for any team that Pitt will face this season.

The running game was impressive at times. Darren McCray, who moved from safety to running back this spring, ran very well. He finished with 7 rushes for 28 yards. Brandon Miree had 5 rushes for 26 yards before giving way to the younger players. Miree looked quick and should be ready for a fine season. Raymond Kirkley finished with 10 carries for 38 yards rushing. Raymond hit the hole quickly and ran the hardest of all the ball carriers. He should be an excellent backup to Miree. Jawan Walker finished with 11 rushes for 37 yards. He showed quickness and toughness and should see much more action this season.

Rod Rutherford played only two series before handing it over to the younger guys. Rod was efficient in completing 6 of 9 passes for 68 yards. Tyler Palko and Luke Getsy continued their battle for the backup position and both were impressive.

Getsy finished 9 of 13 passing for 161 yards and 2 TD's. He also had a 10-yard rushing TD. Getsy's arm looked impressive as he threw almost every pass with a tight spiral. His fine athletic ability was evident on his rollouts and scrambling when nothing was available.

Palko finished 12 of 29 passing for 164 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INT's. He completed a nice 30-yard TD pass to Joe Stephens and also scored a 10-yard rushing TD. Tyler was the leading rusher of the game with 63 yards on 10 carries. Palko made many nice plays with his arm and feet, but he forced about 4 or 5 passes that he shouldn't have thrown, one of which was intercepted and returned for 74 yards by Corey Humphries. He'll need to continue work in that area.

The overall impression is that Palko and Getsy are both excellent talents and whoever wins the backup spot this year should do a fine job.

Defense

Although the offense had the upper hand most of the day, the defense had some standout performances also. The star was redshirt freshman linebacker Azzie Beagnyam. Azzie finished with 10 tackles - 7 solo, and 2 for losses. He showed quickness and instinct making sure he was always around the ball. If he keeps working this hard all off-season, he should be starter come next fall. Lewis Moore also played a strong game and should be the leader of the defense this season.

Corey Humphries returned the interception from Palko for 74 yards in one of the most exciting plays of the day. Corey looks to have fully recovered from his ACL surgery and should see plenty of playing time this season. Redshirt freshman LB Charles Sallet also had an interception and was very active all day long. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in quickness and aggressiveness.

Sam Bryant, another redshirt freshman, had a fine day from his safety position. His highly recruited younger brother was on hand to watch the game and Sam didn't disappoint him. Sam made several nice open-field tackles and he appears to have a bright future at this point.

Troy Banner was playing despite a hamstring injury and made several nice plays, including a crushing hit on RB Jawan Walker. Dan Stephens and Eric Fritz also made highlight film plays on the defensive line. Redshirt freshman Brian Bennett showed off his aggressive style and was running sideline to sideline all day. Although Bennett and Sallet are undersized, they both seem to make up for it with quickness and instincts.

A player who seemed to come out of nowhere was LB Ron Idoko. Idoko is the 6-2/225 redshirt freshman walk-on from the Bronx, NY. He made play after play all day long and was always around the ball. Tez Mooris showed off his fine hitting ability by coming up and popping Rod Rutherford and forcing him to fumble. Tez gave up close to 40 lbs. in that matchup, but he came away with one of the best plays of the day.

Punter Andy Lee showed why he is the best punter in the Big East as he unleashed two rockets yesterday. Lee is an excellent weapon that should help the Panthers win a lot of battles for field position this year.

The areas of concern for this team look to be at cornerback and an overall lack of size at the defensive end and (especially) the linebacker positions. All three positions have a number of young and inexperienced players who will need to learn while under fire this upcoming season.

The Ed Conway Award

Winners of the Ed Conway award for most improved players were Chris Curd, Malcolm Pinder, and Josh Lay. All three players will be pushing for starting jobs come fall camp. Pinder has moved from linebacker to defensive end this season and he has made the transition smoothly. Lay will push William Ferguson for a starting position at cornerback this fall. Chris Curd was probably the biggest surprise of spring ball. If he continues to work hard on his game this off-season, he should be starting next to Larry Fitzgerald for the opener against Kent State on September 6th.

Brian Gold
PittInsiders.com


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