It was a bleak start to the Pitt-Old Dominion match-up with a lack of fans in the stands and a rainy 50-degree night. The Panthers now 4-2 hosted the Monarchs who fall to 4-3 for the first contest between the two teams. The FCS Old Dominion team was not expected to be some roll over opponent with a stellar signal caller in quarterback Tyler Heinicke leading his team.
Shaky start for Panthers
Old Dominion jumped on the board early to prove this wouldn't be an easy win for the Panthers. The Monarchs scored a touchdown on their first series in ten plays for 64-yards in 3:23 and capped it off with a 15-yard pass from Heinicke to Marquel Thomas. However, it appeared to be just a warm-up for Old Dominion who scored again on a fourth-and-eleven when Jarod Brown kicked a 54-yard field goal, and extended the Monarchs' lead to 10 with Pitt still scoreless.
Brown's kick was not only a career-high for the kicker, but also the longest field goal made in the venue of Heinz Field, which yes includes the NFL. The previous record was a 52-yard kick by former Steelers' Jeff Reid in 2010 against Atlanta.
Tom Savage who had already been sacked 15 times in the past two games against Virginia and Virginia Tech added to that number with yet another sack in the first quarter bringing it to 16 total sacks in three games.
Revival of the run game
Isaac Bennett had the hot hand in tonight's contest. Bennett's first touchdown came in the second quarter off a 25-yard run. Bennett's TD run cut Old Dominion's lead to just three. The Panthers first scoring drive took 9 plays for 75 yards in 3:29, capped off by Bennett's 25-yard scoring run.
Kevin Weatherspoon decided to show off some of his big play ability for Pitt. Weatherspoon's punt return was good for 56-yards, and is the longest PR since Darrell Revis' in 2006 against WVU. Weatherspoon's big play led to a three-yard run and a second touchdown for Bennett. Panthers took their first lead of the night, 14-10 in the second quarter.
Bennett was running all over ODU. He recorded his third touchdown of the second quarter. Bennett's 16-yard run put Pitt up 21-10. All of Pitt's points in the first half were credited to Bennett, who had a career-high of 15 carries for 127-yards in the first half. He is the first running back to score three TDs since Ray Graham on September 10, 2011.
Bennett finishes with 30 carries for 240-yards. A Pitt running back has not rushed for over 200-yards in a game since Graham's 226-yards against UCF on September 29, 2011.
Savage joins in on the rush. In the fourth, Savage scrambled away from the pass rush and reaches the endzone from 5-yards out. He looked very similar to Ben Roethlisberger on the play, and not just because of the number seven-jersey. Pitt increased their lead by eleven.
WR's who? TE's fill in
While it looked like another touchdown run for Bennett, it instead gets called back because of a holding call. But Manasseh Garner takes care of the missed opportunity to score and grabs a 21-yard catch in the endzone from Savage. Pitt tallies up 28 unanswered points by the third quarter. Tom Savage is lucky he found Garner for the touchdown after once again holding onto the ball a little too long. Savage finally trades in a sack for a TD.
This Pitt defense needed to find a way to stop Heinicke, but struggled the most with handling the task in the third quarter. Heinicke found a way to cut Pitt's lead with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Blair Roberts. The Monarchs then trailed by eleven. ODU then attempts an inside kick and Brown recovers it.
And just when the Pitt's running game appeared to be the dominating factor of this game, Old Dominion answered again. A 17-yard easy TD run by Antonio Vaughan puts the Monarchs right back in it, down by just four. It took ODU less than five minutes to score two touchdowns. Pitt fans scratching their heads on where their defense went from the past two showings against Virginia and top-25 team Virginia Tech.
Ejuan Price made the dominating play on defense in the fourth quarter. Price had his eye on Heinicke before the snap and closed quickly for a sack.
Ray Vinopal forces the only turnover of the game in the fourth quarter with 2:35 left. Vinopal's pick ends ODU's chances at a come back.
Penalty after penalty
Pitt finished with 10-102 in penalty yards, while Old Dominion gets called for 14-119. The teams combined for 24-221.