Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti opened with a reverse to fifth-year senior wideout Greg Cross, but instead of turning the corner the former quarterback fired downfield to junior Jon Baldwin for a 65-yard touchdown with the Panthers' secondary in tow. The initial part of that play loosened what had been tight coverage all spring by junior cornerback Antwuan Reed.
And it's just another note on Cross' spring resume that could earn him the Ed Conway Award for Pitt's most-improved offensive player this spring. That will be determined next week and given out during the Blue-Gold Game. Cross also had one catch for 15 yards and a run that netted four yards.
"When you look at that receiver group, you know you've got Shanahan, Baldwin, and Cam Saddler has had a good spring,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "But Greg Cross has really worked himself into a position where we have to try to find a way to get him the ball some this season.
"Most definitely, Greg will get his reps this year. And they don't come any better from a people standpoint. He's committed and tough, and he wants it bad. So, he's made progress.''
The Pitt defense appeared to be a little more fired up this week, playing "with a lot more energy,'' according to Wannstedt. And the front four recorded nine sacks, including seven on starting quarterback Tino Sunseri. Greg Romeus and Myles Caragein combined on one sack to force a fumble, and they each added another stop behind the line. Romeus also had a pass breakup.
Brandon Lindsey, Ty Tkach, Tyrone Ezell, Justin Hargrove and Chas Alecxih all had one sack each for the Panthers' D-line.
"I was very pleased with the plays that some of our front guys made (like) Myles Caragein,'' Wannstedt said. "Greg Romeus, I thought, had a big day. Chas Alecxih, I thought they all did. Brandon Lindsey made a few plays. I thought that our front four, even our front seven guys, showed up and played well.
"And We're going to need them to play well in order for us to play good defense. ... Myles is a guy, if you look at the statistics last year, he probably played as good as any of them. His time was limited because of Mick and Gus, but when he was called upon he really made plays for us.''
With Caragein and Alecxih at the tackle spots and Romeus and Jabaal Sheard at the ends, the Pitt defensive line should be just as dominant this year as it was last season. Ezell, Hargrove and Tkach are battling for the backup jobs inside.
"I've been learning the past couple years from Mick and Gus to see what they do and how they do it,'' Caragein said. "I'm trying to learn the techniques and moves in certain situations, and I feel that it's time for me to show what I learned. My mindset is still the same for each game, only I'll be starting now.
"So, I approached the spring a little different. I never started before, so I felt that I needed to prove to the coaches that I was ready to take over at nose guard. ... And I think the spring has gone pretty well so far. The nose is tough, because you need to be strong to handle a couple blockers at a time. So, I worked extra hard in the weight room as well. And it's paid off.''
Caragein and redshirt freshman outside linebacker Carl Fleming led Pitt with six tackles each. Ezell had five with two stops behind the line. Caragein has bulked up to nearly 295 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame, but he hasn't appeared to lose any quickness. Just ask fifth-year senior center Alex Karabin.
"Myles is tough to handle one-on-one,'' Karabin said. "He's strong and quick, and he's difficult to move from the middle.
Still, the Panthers ran the ball pretty well with redshirt sophomore tailback Chris Burns leading the way. Sophomore Ray Graham was held out, along with fullback Henry Hynoski, due to bruised shoulders. And starter Dion Lewis was held back a bit, so Burns got 17 carries and ran for 87 yards with three touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Jason Douglas added 38 yards on 14 carries.
Sunseri completed 5 of 9 passes for 67 yards and the one touchdown to Baldwin, who tallied three catches for 103 yards to go with the two scores. Pat Bostick was 6-for-16 for 116 yards and two touchdown tosses to redshirt freshman wideout Devin Street. With three catches for 83 yards and the two TDs, Street quickly has become Bostick's top target.
Bostick also threw the only interception on the day when quarterback-turned-safety Kolby Gray went up with Street, wrestled the ball away and came down with the pick. It wasn't too bad a pass, but it was an excellent interception. Gray and Reed also blocked field-goal attempts.
But Pitt's place-kickers were average on the day. Dan Hutchins connected from 37 yards and 32 yards twice and missed from 37 and 46. Kevin Harper was successful from 29, 37 twice and 42 yards, but missed from 37 twice and 39.
Pitt has three more spring practice sessions, Tuesday and Thursday at 2:45 p.m. and Saturday with the annual Blue-Gold Game at 2 p.m. at Heinz Field.
Pitt Scrimmage II
Panther More Top Stories
Go premium and get SI free for a yearGo premium with PantherMore.com today and get Sports Illustrated for free.
Panther MoreYesterday at 8:53 AM
ONE YEAR LATER: Canada vs. ChaneyFormer Pitt offensive coordinator Jim Chaney bolted back to the SEC when he accepted the open offensive coordinator job at Georgia this past offseason, leaving Pitt coach Pat…
Panther MoreThursday at 1:36 PM
Pat Narduzzi listed as "hot commodity" coachScout.com gives you its mid-season list of coaches who could take head coaching positions elsewhere after 2016. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi is listed among college football's hottest…
ScoutThursday at 10:00 AM
Four-star Thompson set to visit PittFour-star Pitt commit Aaron Thompson slated to check out Pitt's campus.
Panther MoreThursday at 8:40 AM