Panthers open season against Kent State

The Kent State Golden Flashes (1-0) come to Heinz Field Saturday fresh off a 41-38 victory over archrival Akron. Kent returns six starters on offense and four starters on defense from a team that went 3-9 last season. Pitt returns eight starters on offense and seven starters on defense from a team that went 9-4 last season.

Kent State is led by star QB senior Joshua Cribbs Jr. He was the first freshman in NCAA history to run and pass for a 1,000 yards. He is a dual threat and can beat you with his arm or his legs. Cribbs was 25 of 43 for 340 yards and three TD's against Akron. He also rushed for 57 yards and one TD in the game. The rushing attack features senior Davis Alston who was 2nd team All-MAC in 2001. Alston rushed for 70 yards on 16 carries against Akron. He also is a very good kick returner. Kent's top two receiving threats are senior Daryl Moore and junior Darrell Dowery Jr. Moore had 4 catches for 80 yards and a TD against Akron. Dowery caught 4 passes for 73 yards against Akron. Former QB sophomore Antwan Smith had 6 catches for 75 yards and a TD against Akron and is a dangerous athlete. He also has 3 rushes for 27 yards.

Pitt's offense will be led by senior QB Rod Rutherford who was 192 of 367 for 2,783 passing yards and 22 TD's last season. He was named 2nd team All Big East last season. Sophomore superstar Larry Fitzgerald leads the receiving unit after catching 69 passes for over 1,000 yards as a true freshman last year. Senior RB Brandon Miree looks to improve on the outstanding 2nd half performance of last season, which saw him rush for over 100 yards in 3 of the last 4 regular season games. Senior tight end Kris Wilson also looks for a breakout season that should see him getting the ball more often now that defenses will focus on Fitzgerald.

Kent's defense held Akron to only 40 yards rushing on 30 carries, but they gave up over 400 yards through the air. Pitt's defense will look to stop Kent's wide-open offensive attack with a unit that has four players who will be starting for the first time in their college careers. The defense also features several true freshmen in key backup roles.

Pitt last played Kent State in 2000 when they won 30-7. They also beat Kent State in 1999 as they struggled to a 30-23 victory.

Brian Gold
PittInsiders.com


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