Israel Abanikanda rushed for 177 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries as No. 24 Pitt beat visiting Rhode Island 45-24 on Saturday.
Abanikanda, who scored in each quarter, is Pitt’s first rusher with three straight 100-yard games and four touchdowns in a game since Darrin Hall in 2017.
The Panthers (3-1) totaled 460 yards of offense, including 241 in the first half.
With an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter, M.J. Devonshire became the first Panther to return an interception and a punt for a TD in one season since Darrelle Revis in 2006.
Pitt’s Kedon Slovis returned from injury and was 20-for-27 passing for 189 passing yards.
Pitt improved to 8-0 against FCS opponents under coach Pat Narduzzi, a Rhode Island alum. On Saturday, the Panthers played without five starters and lost tight end Gavin Bartholomew (undisclosed) during the game.
For Rhode Island (2-2), Marques DeShields ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Kasim Hill was 17-of-30 for 223 yards, helping the Rams average 13.1 yards per completion compared with Pitt’s 9.5. Hill connected with Darius Savedge for a 15-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Jake Fire recorded a game-high 13 tackles for Rhode Island.
After a pair of penalties ended the Rams’ first drive, the Panthers scored on Devonshire’s return before their offense touched the ball.
Pitt made the score 14-0 just two plays into its second series when Abanikanda rushed through a seam for a 67-yard score. But the Rams’ DeShields responded with a 63-yard touchdown run less than a minute later.
In the second quarter, Abanikanda’s 12-yard TD run highlighted a 16-play, 82-yard drive that lasted 7:35. Adding to Pitt’s lead, Ben Sauls booted a 31-yard field goal with 3:39 left.
Two penalties helped the Rams extend a 75-yard drive and score on a 1-yard DeShields run in the final minute of the half.
Rhode Island ate up 8:16 of the third-quarter clock during an 18-play drive that ended with Harrison Leonard nailing his first career field goal, from 34 yards with 56 seconds to play.
In the final quarter, Abanikanda ran in from 13 yards, and Vincent Davis added an 18-yard TD run with 1:11 left.
–Field Level Media