Pitt Beats EMU; Stull Injured

Pitt's running game still needs a lot of work, as does the offensive line, but the Panthers' passing game and junior quarterback Bill Stull was just efficient enough in a lackluster 27-3 win against Eastern Michigan Saturday night at Heinz Field.

Stull was 14-for-20 for 177 yards for Pittsburgh and one stellar 21-yard touchdown catch by redshirt sophomore wideout Oderick Turner, but he unfortunately injured the thumb on his right (throwing) hand late in the third quarter and did not return. Stull initially injured his right thumb Aug. 10, just a few days into training camp, and wore a glove on the hand after missing one practice day.

"Billy Stull did injury his thumb, and he'll get it checked out (Sunday) morning,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "He said that someone reached in there, grabbed it and pulled it back. It was not on a contact play.''

Before Stull came out and was replaced by redshirt freshman Kevan Smith, he was sharp. In his first collegiate start, Stull completed his first seven passes for 114 yards, including a 41-yarder to redshirt junior wideout Marcel Pestano that was slightly underthrown. But he showed a lot of poise.

"I thought when Kevan Smith came in there, he did what he needed to win the game,'' Wannstedt said.

EMU actually scored first on a 27-yard field goal by freshman Sean Dutcher that was set up by a poor Dave Brytus punt from deep in Pitt territory. Also, fifth-year senior cornerback Kennard Cox was called for a late hit during the series to move EMU into field-goal range.

Stull's connection to Pestano got Pitt into the red zone, and he later hit senior tight end Darrell Strong for 19 to the 1. Junior fullback Conredge Collins, who didn't play much due to a single-back set that was used, entered at tailback. And redshirt sophomore Shane Brooks entered at fullback. Brooks plunged in from the 1 for his first collegiate touchdown. He also scored from the same distance in the third quarter.

Stull hooked up with junior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling for a 19-yard gain on Pitt's next possession to get into the red zone. Stephens-Howling had a scoring catch called back on a holding penalty, but Stull connected with Turner from the 21 to give Pitt its second touchdown.

"Those things happen,'' Stephens-Howling said. "And I'll get another chance to get into the end zone, I'm sure. Until then, we'll just keep working at it.''

EMU had a chance to score again, but a 40-yard field goal fell short. Redshirt junior place-kicker Conor Lee kicked field goals from 28 and 35 yards, but he missed badly wide right from 41 yards out.

The running game picked up some in the second half, as Stephens-Howling had a 30-yard run and freshman LeSean McCoy added a 29-yarder. McCoy led Pitt with 68 yards on 10 carries, while Stephens-Howling added 67 on 16 carries. The Panthers ran for 130 yards, a 3.1 average, but held EMU to 39 rushing yards (a 1.7 average).

"We ran the ball pretty well when I got in there, so I didn't have to throw the ball too much,'' Smith said. "Billy did a great job while he was in there, and I was into the game the whole time. So, I was ready when they called my name.

"Billy's a tough kid, so I don't know what's going to happen next week, but I'll be ready if I need to play again. I've worked hard all year, and I've been ready just for this type of situation. If it happens and I need to play, I'll be ready.''

That will be determined sometime Sunday.

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