A 6-foot-5, 220-pound freshman wideout from Aliquippa, Pa., Jonathan Baldwin caught two passes for 59 yards and one electrifying touchdown against the Bulls. Both came in the third offensive series for Pittsburgh, but his impact was felt the entire game.
Baldwin's size and speed were tough to match by the South Florida secondary, even with double coverage, and that led to three defensive penalties and two scores. All in all, not a bad night for the humble Baldwin.
"I felt pretty good out there,'' Baldwin said. "I know that as the games go on, I'll get more plays and be able to get a lot better. I just want to contribute to the team as much as possible, any way that I can, so I feel pretty good with the way that I played. I made a good contribution this week.''
There were many heroes in Pitt's 26-21 win against 10th-ranked South Florida, and Baldwin certainly was among them. The Panthers' opening two possessions against USF sputtered, and both would have been three-and-out if not for a roughing-the-punter penalty during the first one. But the third time Pitt got the ball, it was Baldwin's time.
Following a USF touchdown, Pitt took over at its 33. Quarterback Bill Stull connected to Baldwin for seven yards on slant to open the drive and capped it four plays later with a 52-yard bomb for a touchdown. It was third-and-seven from the Panthers' 48, and Baldwin took off down the right sideline. A little move got him past the secondary, and Stull's pass was on target for the score.
"Coach called the all-go play,'' Baldwin said. "The corner was playing up tight, looking for the run, so I was able to get past him. Bill threw the ball out there, and I was able to catch it and score. It's my first touchdown in college, and I was kind of shocked at first. But I'm happy that I scored.''
Baldwin didn't catch another pass the rest of the way, but that's only because the Bulls wouldn't let him. In fact, their defense was too tight and led to Pitt's second touchdown. A holding call inside the 20 on Baldwin moved the sticks, and pass-interference in the end zone on a fade pass to him gave the Panthers a new set of downs again. LeSean McCoy eventually ran in for the score.
"That first touchdown pass to Baldwin was a big play for us,'' Stull said. "He got open, and my line gave me time to get the ball to him. We tried to get the ball to him a few more times, too. They had a tough time covering him. Jonathan, he's a big target, and he's fast. And he can only get better this season.''
Pitt's final possession in the first half ended in a field goal by automatic Conor Lee, but the Panthers tried strike quickly for the touchdown since the drive began near midfield. On third-and-13, Stull launched a deep pass for Baldwin, but USF defensive back Tyler Roberts -- badly overmatched in single coverage -- bumped Baldwin and was called for pass interference.
The play extended the drive and allowed Pitt to get into field-goal range.
"They had some pretty good corners, so I didn't think about getting any pass-interference calls,'' Baldwin said. "Bill just threw the ball up there so I could get it, and it just worked out that way. We got a couple calls. I'm not sure what happened there, but it worked out for us.''
Baldwin clearly can be a force on the Panthers' offense, but the coaching staff has brought him along slowly. Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt answers questions about him nearly the same way every time.
"He made some plays for us and caused some problems for South Florida,'' Wannstedt said. "We have to find a way to get him the ball more often. He's going to be a really good player for us.''
Baldwin had just one catch for eight yards going into the USF game, rather an inauspicious start for such a highly-recruited athlete. Pitt's new depth chart hasn't been released yet, so Baldwin currently is listed as the backup to redshirt junior Oderick Turner at split end.
"I know my time will come,'' Baldwin said. "I'm practicing hard, and I'll keep doing that. I do whatever the coach asks me to do, and when they call my number I have to be ready to go. Hopefully, they'll keep calling it.''
With the way things worked out at South Florida, that seems like a good idea.
Baldwin Makes An Impact
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