History On Sunseri's Side

A variety of reasons have pressed Pitt quarterbacks into starting roles over the years. Here's a look at how some of Pitt's quarterbacks have fared in their first career start, going all the way back to Matt Cavanaugh

Matt Cavanaugh
September 25, 1976 vs. Temple, 21-7 W Cavanaugh replaced an injured Robert Haygood the previous week at Georgia Tech, and kept the Panthers unbeaten in his first start.

Rick Trocano
September 17, 1977 vs. William & Mary, 28-6 W After Cavanaugh was injured in the season-opening loss to Notre Dame, Trocano came on to lead Pitt to three consecutive victories, before Cavanaugh returns to the lineup, and leads Pitt to the 1977 Gator Bowl.

Dan Marino
November 3, 1979 vs. Syracuse, 28-21 W Trocano succeeded Matt Cavanaugh after his graduation, where he started for the 1978 and 1979 seasons. Marino filled in for an injured Trocano in a 24-7 win over Navy, then lifts Pitt to five consecutive victories, including a Fiesta Bowl win over Arizona. Marino throws for four touchdown passes in his first start.

John Cummings
September 3, 1983 at Tennessee, 13-3 W Though it was John Congemi who started nearly every game for the next four years, it was John Cummings who started at Tennessee, in the first game of the post-Marino era. It was Pitt's second win at Tennessee against former coach Johnny Majors, as Cummings threw for 110 yards, a 56-yard touchdown pass to Dwight Collins, and an interception. Cummings then broke his collarbone, late in the game.

John Congemi
September 10, 1983 at Temple, 35-0 W Congemi replaced Cummings, and went on to be a four-year starter for Pitt. By the time he graduated, he was second to Marino with 6,567 career passing yards.

Sal Genilla
November 8, 1986 vs. Miami, 37-10 L Congemi's last start was at Syracuse, a game where he had compressed vertebrae, and a hairline fracture. The following week, at a rainy Pitt stadium, it was Sal Genilla making his first start. Craig ‘Ironhead' Heyward stole the show with 254 yards on the ground against a talented Miami defense--coached by then defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt.

Darnell Dickerson
October 31, 1987 vs. Syracuse, 24-10 L Genilla's starting job was questioned every week. After throwing seven touchdown passes, with eight interceptions, Genilla was replaced by freshman Darnell Dickerson. Though Dickerson's first start was the loss at Syracuse, he would go on to start the final five games of the 1987 season, including an epic 10-0 win over Penn State. Dickerson started every game of the 1988 season as well, before being ruled academically ineligible.

Alex Van Pelt
September 2, 1989 vs. Pacific, 38-3 W Pitt had been blessed throughout the 1980s with the stability of four-year starters in Marino and Congemi. They found another in Van Pelt, who started every game of his four-year career, starting with a 38-3 win over a Walt Harris-led Pacific team.

John Ryan
September 2, 1993 at Southern Miss, 14-10 W The first game of the Johnny Majors era Part II. Ryan completes 12-of-19 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown pass. It looked like the Panthers were back, until a 63-21 loss to Virginia Tech the next week. Ryan started on and off over the next three seasons.

Pete Gonzalez
October 21, 1995 vs. Miami, 17-16 L Gonzalez got a surprise start, as Pitt nearly pulled off an upset of the Hurricanes for a second year in a row. Though Gonzalez completed just 4-of-20 passes in the game, Pitt lead 16-10 up until five minutes remaining in the game. Gonzalez started a couple games in 1996, and became the full-time starter in 1997, where he earned first-team all-Big East honors.

Sean Fitzgerald
September 3, 1994 vs. Texas, 30-28 L After John Ryan and Ken Ferguson shared starting duties in 1993, Fitzgerald was brought in as a junior-college transfer from California. Curtis Martin stole the show from Fitzgerald--much the way Heyward did in 1986 against Miami, with Sal Genilla. Fitzgerald completed 12-of-25 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown, as Pitt narrowly missed a chance at an upset on then No. 18 Texas.

Matt Lytle
November 11, 1995 vs. Syracuse, 42-10 L Gonzalez started two games in 1995 before going down with a knee injury. Lytle, a redshirt freshman, got the start in Pitt's final two games, starting with the final home game against Syracuse. Lytle completed threw for 200 yards, completing 20-of-38 passes.

David Priestley
September 4, 1999 vs. Bowling Green, 30-10 W There was a quarterback duel between David Priestley and John Turman throughout the 1999 season. Priestley completed just 1-of-5 passes for six yards in his first start, but returned later in the year for three more starts, including a 407-yard performance against Virginia Tech.

John Turman
September 11, 1999 at Penn State, 20-17 L Turman took over the reigns from Priestley the previous week against Bowling Green, and would go on to start the next five games; a total of seven in 1999. Nearly led Pitt to an upset of the Nittany Lions in his first start, throwing for 316 yards on 19-of-35 passes.

Rod Rutherford
August 31, 2002 vs. Ohio, 27-14 W Rutherford's debut as a starting quarterback was shaky at best, as he threw three interceptions, completing 9-of-22 passes for 97 yards. Much like Turman, Rutherford took off in the second game of the season against Texas A&M--a 14-12 loss, but went on to throw for 2,783 yards in his first season--the most, at that point, of any starting quarterback under Walt Harris.

Luke Getsy
September 6, 2003 vs. Kent State, 43-3 W Though he was filling in for a suspended Rod Rutherford, Getsy started and only played the first quarter. He completed 3-of-11 passes for 32 yards, and also ran for a gain of 25 yards. He played in five other games in 2003.

Tyler Palko
September 11, 2004 vs. Ohio, 24-3 W Much like Rutherford did two years before, Palko struggled in his first career start against Ohio. He completed just 6-of-19 passes for 49 yards and an interception.

Bill Stull
September 1, 2007 vs. Eastern Michigan, 27-3 W Though Pitt won, it's a game Bill Stull would like to forget. Stull had the best debut of a starting quarterback since Turman, completing 21-of-30 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns. Late in the game, he injured a thumb, which kept him out for the remainder of the season.

Kevan Smith
September 8, 2007 vs. Grambling, 34-10 W Smith replaced Stull the very next week, completing 15-of-22 passes for 202 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Smith started the next two games at Michigan State, and UConn.

Pat Bostick
September 29, 2007 at Virginia, 44-14 L Bostick was thrown into the fire in Charlottesville, in a game best remembered for starting off with an onside kick. Bostick completed 18-of-31 passes for 131 yards, one touchdown and one interception.


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