Pittsburgh Holds Off Penguins, 45-37, in Pelini's Debut

Jody Webb (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Jody Webb (Photo by Ron Stevens)

Pittsburgh, Pa. -- Sophomore quarterback Hunter Wells passed for 274 yards with a touchdown and junior Jody Webb ran for 127 yards with a pair of touchdowns, but Pittsburgh used several big plays en route to a 45-37 victory over the Youngstown State football team on Saturday at Heinz Field.

The Penguins, who posted 407 yards of total offense, fall to 0-1 while the Panthers open the year 1-0. The game marked the head coaching debuts for YSU's Bo Pelini and Pittsburgh's Pat Narduzzi.

Senior Andre Stubbs finished with 158 all-purpose yards, including 147 receiving yards, and had a 77-yard touchdown reception from Wells. Wells completed 19-of-38 passes and threw for more than 200 yards for the sixth time in his career. Defensively, LeRoy Alexander led the Penguins with six tackles and two interceptions, including a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter.

The Penguins trailed by 14 in the middle of the second quarter and by as many as 15 late in the third quarter and brought the contest to a one possession game on five different occasions.

Pittsburgh running back Qadree Ollison rushed for 207 yards on 16 carries and had a 71-yard touchdown run. The Panthers also had three plays of more than 55 yards that went for scores, including an 89-yard kickoff return, Ollison's 71-yard run, and a 55-yard pass from Chad Voytik to Scott Orndoff.

To start the game, YSU forced a three-and-out on defense and marched 60 yards in nine plays to take a 3-0 lead on Zak Kennedy's 22-yard field goal. Wells hit Stubbs for a 20-yard gain to the Pitt 45 on YSU's first play. Following a sack and a four-yard completion, Wells connected with Webb for a 19 yard gain to the Pitt 29 on third and 13.

Martin Ruiz scampered 23-yards to the Pitt six, but the Penguins had to settle for Kennedy's first career field goal.

Pitt scored 17 straight to take a 17-3 lead midway through the second quarter on a pair of touchdowns by James Conner (13 and 4 yards) and a 45-yard field goal by Chris Blewitt.

After an exchange of punts, the Penguins took over at the Pitt 37 and were forced to settle for another Kennedy field goal - this time from 42-yards - to get within 11, 17-6, with 1:37 left before halftime.

Three plays later, Alexander returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown to cut the Penguins' deficit to four, 17-13, with 48 seconds left before halftime.

On the ensuing kickoff, Pitt's Avonte Maddox recovered from a collision with a teammate and returned the kick 81 yards for a touchdown to boost the Panther advantage to 24-13 at halftime.

Early in the third quarter, senior Terrell Williams sacked and forced a fumble by Voytik, and Lee Wright recovered at the Pittsburgh six-yardline. The Penguins, though, had to settle for Kennedy's third field goal of the day to get back within eight, 24-16.

On a third and one on Pitt's next possession, Ollison swept around the left side for a 71-yard run to extend the lead back to 31-16 with 4:48 left in the third.

The Guins responded with a 10-play, 82 yard drive that was capped by a 27-yard TD run by Webb and got back to an eight-point deficit, 31-23, with 51 seconds left in the third quarter.

Later, YSU failed to convert on fourth-and-one, and, on the next play, Voytik hit Orndoff on a 55-yard scoring strike to give Pitt a 38-23 lead with 12:21 left in the fourth.

The Penguins made it a one-possession game for the fourth time when Wells hit Stubbs on a 77-yard TD pass to get within eight, 38-30, with 6:50 to go. After Voytik dove in from one yard, Webb sprinted 75 yards for the Penguins' last score at the 4:24 mark.

Pittsburgh set up for an on-side kick but the Penguins kicked deep and pinned the Panthers inside the 10. YSU forced a three-and-out but turned the ball over on downs.

The Penguins host Robert Morris, Saturday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. in the home opener at Stambaugh Stadium.