Redshirt freshman-to-be Shariff Harris led a fluid offense with nine carries for 65 yards. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound tailback punished Pittsburgh's defense, the Blue team, with three consecutive big runs of 13, 15 and 15 yards late in the scrimmage. The final rush, a 15-yard touchdown, came after Harris broke out of a pack of would-be tacklers and split outside left for the score.
"No positions were solidified today, but I did like what Shariff Harris did," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "He did some things today to help himself."
Wannstedt also mentioned Dorin Dickerson as a stand-out performer. Dickerson, a junior who transitioned to tight end to replenish a battered tight-end corps, had three catches for 35 yards, including a two-handed, falling-out-of-bounds, 16-yard snag on the left sideline in the first quarter. Dickerson's catch was part of an impressive first drive that yielded 13 points for the offense.
LeSean McCoy punched in the touchdown from the 1-yard line. The stalwart sophomore-to-be said he and his offensive teammates wanted to put on a show in the Heinz Field lights.
"As far as progress goes, we're doing really well," McCoy said. "Being in a game situation and being here at Heinz Field, playing in front of a big audience motivated us."
McCoy and his first-unit teammates peppered Pitt's defense from every angle. Stull hit five different receivers on the Gold's first drive. The redshirt junior-to-be is considered the frontrunner for the starting quarterback position and he showed why today. Stull, who has recovered from a season-ending thumb injury, was 7 of 10 for 56 yards. He showed good command and managing skills with a wide array of talent at the skill positions.
"I was just working through my reads and finding the open guys," Stull said. "We were kind of getting tired of getting our butts kicked [by the defense], so we went out and made some plays and carried that on. My thumb's not hurting anymore. It felt good to feel comfortable again. We have so many weapons out there and more coming in as freshmen. That makes my job easier."
Stull and his competitors for the starting quarterback position – sophomore-to-be Pat Bostick, redshirt sophomore-to-be Kevan Smith and junior transfer Greg Cross – had a field day throwing to sophomore Mo Williams. The 6-1 Erie native had seven receptions for 107 yards and a score. The play of the day came when Cross lofted a 37-yard bomb to Williams, who cut inside of his man and made a beautiful catch. The drive stalled after that, but the athleticism of Cross, Williams and Harris noticeably emerged on the drive.
"Mo Williams made some plays," Wannstedt said. "He did make some plays."
Cross had a nice game. The coaching staff has given the Fort Scott Community College transfer free reign when he's under center. He had five carries for 33 yards, including a 29-yard run on third-and-22. He shook at least five defenders on the run that generated plenty of "oohs" and "ahs" from the crowd.
"I chose to take off [on those plays]," Cross said. "Coach [Cavanaugh] agreed with [him running]. They know I am going to run so they give me the opportunity. They say if I get the opportunity, just go."
Cross said he's getting close to being 100-percent comfortable with his new role at Pitt.
"Coach Cavanaugh just said to relax and take my time," Cross said. "I'm still taking baby steps. At the beginning, I was a little shaky. After a few weeks, I stepped back and refocused. I'm taking my time now and more relaxed. I'm not 100 percent, but I'm getting there."
With Cross rapidly improving, he's adding gas to an already hot contest for the quarterback slot. Stull impressed with the first team and Cross did well in the fourth quarter, but Bostick and Smith had nice games, too. Bostick was 11 of 15 for 105 yards, including some nice throws downfield and a much-improved pocket presence. Smith was 5 of 10 for 48 yards and the game's only passing score.
"Everything looked good," McCoy said. "Passing it, running it. We were on all cylinders."
"I liked it from the perspective that it wasn't sloppy," Wannstedt said. "We did a good job of protecting the ball. I liked how our quarterbacks played as a group. Our offensive line performed better than they have all spring. Our defense had the upper hand all spring so it was good to see our offensive guys respond in that fashion today. And just as important as not turning the ball over, no one got hurt."
NOTES -- TE Dorin Dickerson and WR Cedric McGee won the Ed Conway Award for most improved offensive player during spring drills. … DT Mick Williams won the defensive version of the award. … DT Myles Caragein and OL Chris Jacobson won the Academic Award for freshman academic achievement. … The following players did not play in the scrimmage: TE Nate Byham (knee), OL Chase Clowser (shoulder), FB Conredge Collins (knee) , OL C.J. Davis (hamstring), OL Chris Jacobson (knee), WR Francis Johns (knee), LB Brian Kaiser (knee), WR Derek Kinder (knee), OL Dan Matha (knee), DL Gus Mustakas (knee), TE John Pelusi (shoulder), OL Jason Pinkston (shoulder) and DL Doug Fulmer (hamstring). Attendance was announced to be 7,549.