PITTSBURGH, PA. – The Pittsburgh (Pitt) Panthers (3-1, 0-0) made it clear they weren’t going to let the No. 21 University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats (3-1, 2-0) sneak up on them like Western Michigan had in week three. The Panthers bullied the smaller Wildcat team for 60 minutes en route to a 77-7 statement victory at Heinz Field.
“We ran into a team that I knew was very talented. They were on a mission after what happened last week,” said UNH head coach Sean McDonnell. “You could sense it when watching tape that the defensive front was fast, but when you’re out there it appeared it be what it was; they were very athletic and very fast.”
Size and speed were the biggest differences between the Wildcats and their lone FBS opponent of the season. This became evident to sophomore quarterback Bret Edwards and the rest of the New Hampshire offense immediately. Pitt’s defensive line began the day with a 13-yard sack, a two-yard tackle for loss and a 10-yard sack for a safety to give them a two-point lead within three minutes.
That was just the start of the nightmare afternoon that was ahead of the Wildcats. Pitt followed up the safety with an eight-play, 77-yard touchdown drive and a 35-yard pick-six. Before the clock struck 9:00 in the first quarter the Panthers found themselves ahead 14-0.
The Panthers feature an offense that had been scoring an average of more than 44 points per game before the Wildcats ran into them on Saturday. Within this high-flying offense is redshirt senior quarterback Kenny Pickett who has already surpassed Dan Marino’s school passing record and is a prospect for April’s NFL Draft. Pickett’s top target is sophomore wide receiver Jordan Addison. Addison was a First-Year All-American a season ago according to The Athletic, Rivals and 247Sports as well as the runner-up for ACC Rookie of the Year.
The Wildcat defense became familiar with this duo quickly on Saturday. Pickett passed for 403 yards going 24-for-28 (86%) with five passing touchdowns without playing most of the second half. Three of those touchdowns were caught by Addison who racked up 179 yards on six receptions.
Pitt combined for 707 yards of total offense which is a school record. The Panthers ran circles around the Wildcats scoring on 10 of their first 11 drives.
Edwards finished the day completing nine of his 20 passes for the Wildcats, only totaling 42 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Only two pass-catchers recorded more than one reception on the afternoon for New Hampshire.
McDonnell didn’t have much insight postgame as to any positives he could take away from the historic loss.
“I don’t know,” McDonnell exhaled. “I have never been in this position as a coach in my life. I’ve been beat before, and we’ve usually had a fighting chance.”
As for the head coach on the other side, Pat Narduzzi didn’t seem to put much weight on the win against an FCS opponent.
“Nothing gained [from this game], nothing lost. It’s what we expect to do,” Narduzzi explained. “In 24 hours, we’ll put that one to bed and get ready for real football.”
If there was a silver lining for UNH in this game, it was junior running back Carlos Washington Jr. rushing for 91 yards against a defense that proved dominant all afternoon. McDonnell noted that Washington Jr. has been practicing hard trying to prove some people wrong and was able to play at the speed of their opponent on Saturday. The junior broke off for a 70-yard run which was the longest play of the day for New Hampshire. The big gain led to their lone touchdown on the day two plays later.
The path back to the playoffs won’t get much easier for the Wildcats as they welcome No. 3 James Madison (3-0, 1-0) into Durham for week five. The Dukes are coming off a bye week and are averaging more than 53 points per game. New Hampshire has lost four of their last five meetings with James Madison. The game will be a part of Homecoming Weekend at UNH and will kick off at 3:30 p.m. from Wildcat Stadium Saturday, Oct. 2.
Photo courtesy of Cam Heisner