Sep 24, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) scrambles with the ball against the Rhode Island Rams during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Israel Abanikanda’s four TDs lead No. 24 Pitt past Rhode Island

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

Dec 30, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi on the field prior to the game against the Michigan State Spartans during the 2021 Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24 Pitt readies for Rhode Island, Pat Narduzzi’s alma mater

No. 24 Pitt concludes its nonconference schedule on Saturday afternoon when it hosts coach Pat Narduzzi’s alma mater in FCS member Rhode Island.

FCS foes traditionally have provided little resistance for the Panthers (2-1), who are 19-1 in such matchups.

Israel Abanikanda finds himself in a tie atop the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing (302 yards) after rolling up 133 in Pitt’s 34-13 romp at Western Michigan last Saturday.

The Panthers revealed their hand early by rushing on 14 of their first 15 offensive plays. The reason to do so likely stemmed from both Abanikanda’s success and Pitt’s decision to start redshirt freshman quarterback Nate Yarnell, who received ACC Rookie of the Week honors following his performance against the Broncos.

“I told (Yarnell) before the game, ‘I got you. No matter what, I got you. You’ve got no reason to be scared,’” Abanikanda told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He showed that he’s tough. I’m proud of him.”

Yarnell completed 9 of 12 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown while playing in place of starter Kedon Slovis (undisclosed) and backup Nick Patti (ankle).

Narduzzi elected to play it safe with Slovis on Saturday despite the latter participating in practice all week prior to the game against Western Michigan.

Slovis, a transfer from USC, hasn’t played since the second half of the Panthers’ 34-27 overtime loss to Tennessee on Sept. 10.

While Narduzzi didn’t reveal his plan for the game against Rhode Island, he did gush about Yarnell during Monday’s press conference.

“Every day we’ll find out,” Narduzzi said. “I know we know a lot more and have a lot more faith from what Nate did on game day. You could see him in practice and you could see him on the scout field, but when you see how a guy operates the game, it definitely gives you an idea that we have another piece to the puzzle — one we may have to use at another point in the season.”

As for Narduzzi himself, Saturday’s game may hold a bit of extra importance. He was a three-year starter at linebacker with Rhode Island from 1987-89, and he graduated from the school in 1990.

The Rams (2-1) followed up road victories over Stony Brook and Bryant by allowing Delaware to score the game’s first 28 points last Saturday. Rhode Island attempted to rally before dropping a 42-21 decision.

“It was a very disappointing outcome to a game that was so highly anticipated,” Rams coach Jim Fleming said, per the Providence Journal. “The work you put in to be able to achieve some respect — all of a sudden it unfolds this way. It’s the worst possible scenario.”

Pennsylvania native Kahtero Summers reeled in a pair of touchdown receptions to boost his total to three over the last two games.

Ed Lee, who scored a touchdown in each of the first two games of the season, leads the team in catches (15) and receiving yards (265).

Kasim Hill has thrown at least two touchdown passes in seven straight games dating back to last season.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Konata Mumpfield (14) catches a touchdown pass against Western Michigan Broncos cornerback Dorian Jackson (23) in the fourth quarter at Waldo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kimberly Moss-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt racks up 417 yards to blow by Western Michigan

Nate Yarnell completed 9 of 12 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown to lead No. 23 Pitt to a 34-13 road win over Western Michigan on Saturday in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Yarnell was filling in for starter Kedon Slovis, who suffered an injury last week against Tennessee.

Israel Abanikanda rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries for Pittsburgh (2-1).

Pittsburgh opened the scoring on a 48-yard field goal by Ben Sauls with 7:26 remaining in the first quarter, and then the Panthers took a 10-0 lead with 2:39 left in the first following a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown by Marquis Williams.

The teams then traded field goals for the rest of the first half.

Western Michigan (1-2) cut its deficit to 10-3 on a 32-yard field goal by Palmer Domschke with 31 seconds remaining in the first quarter, then Sauls drilled a 23-yarder with 11:31 left in the second to once again allow Pitt to establish a 10-point edge.

Domschke then hit a 40-yard field goal with 7:17 remaining in the first half to make it 13-6 Panthers, which was the score at halftime.

With 1:30 left in the third quarter, Pittsburgh took a 20-6 lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by Abanikanda, which capped off a seven-play, 80-yard drive.

Western Michigan responded, going 75 yards in three plays and closing to within 20-13 on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Sambucci to A.J. Abbott with 23 seconds left in the third quarter.

But the Panthers had an answer, taking a 27-13 lead with 8:16 left in the game on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Yarnell to Konata Mumpfield, finishing off a 12-play, 74-yard drive that took 7:07 off the clock.

Pittsburgh then put the game away with 3:03 remaining, taking a 34-13 lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by Daniel Carter.

Pittsburgh racked up 417 yards of total offense compared to WMU’s 180.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Tennessee Volunteers defensive back Jaylen McCollough (2) defends Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Konata Mumpfield (14) out of the back of the end-zone during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24 Tennessee outlasts No. 17 Pitt in OT

Hendon Hooker threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Tillman in overtime as No. 24 Tennessee defeated host and No. 17 Pittsburgh 34-27 on Saturday.

Hooker finished 27-of-42 passing for 325 yards and two scores, and Tillman caught nine passes for 162 yards for the Volunteers (2-0). Jabari Small also rushed for two touchdowns.

Israel Abanikanda led Pittsburgh (1-1) with 25 carries for a career-high 154 yards and one score. Quarterback Kedon Slovis completed 14 of 24 passes for 195 yards with one touchdown and one interception but was injured and replaced by Nick Patti at the start of the second half.

Patti also was visibly gimpy and finished 9-of-20 for 79 yards and one touchdown.

When the Panthers had their offensive chance in overtime, their drive stalled when Patti was sacked on third down. Patti’s pass fell incomplete on fourth down.

After an early 30-yard field goal by Ben Sauls, the Panthers went ahead 10-0 when Abanikanda scampered for a career-best 76-yard rushing touchdown for a 10-0 lead with 9:00 left in the first quarter.

Tennessee drove 80 yards in 11 plays capped by Small’s 1-yard plunge to close within 10-7 with 1:02 remaining in the first.

Pittsburgh struck back quickly early in the second and regained a 17-7 lead when Slovis connected with Gavin Bartholomew on a 57-yard touchdown pass.

The Volunteers responded on their next drive when Bru McCoy caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from Hooker to cut the deficit to 17-14.

Then with 4:56 to go in the second, Small scored from the 1 for a 21-17 advantage. Tillman’s 61-yard reception set up the score.

Chase McGrath tacked on a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give Tennessee a 24-17 lead at halftime.

Pittsburgh blocked a punt in the third quarter but the ensuing drive quickly stalled and Sauls missed a 36-yard field goal with 5:17 left. It was his second miss of the third quarter.

Sauls finally connected, this time from 35 yards out, to close the Panthers within 24-20 with 14:07 remaining.

McGrath booted a 51-yard field goal with 8:57 to go and the Volunteers moved back ahead by seven, 27-20.

Pittsburgh tied the game at 27 when Patti tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to Jared Wayne with 2:23 left.

–Field Level Media

Sep 1, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback JT Daniels (18) passes against pressure from Pittsburgh Panthers linebacker SirVocea Dennis (7) during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 Pitt pulls out wild Backyard Brawl win over WVU

M.J. Devonshire returned an interception 56 yards for a tiebreaking touchdown with 2:58 to play as No. 17 Pitt pulled out a 38-31 victory over West Virginia on Thursday in Pittsburgh.

In a back-and-forth battle, the Panthers (1-0) wound up outlasting the Mountaineers (0-1), snapping a three-game losing streak in the Backyard Brawl, which hadn’t been played since 2011.

Down 24-17 late in the third quarter, West Virginia put together two lengthy touchdown drives to go up 31-24 with 10:37 to play.

JT Daniels’ 16-yard scoring pass to Bryce Ford-Wheaton leveled the score, and then Daniels’ 1-yard run gave the Mountaineers a seven-point lead.

After the teams exchanged punts, Pitt took over on its own 8-yard line with just over six minutes to go.

Southern California transfer Kedon Slovis led a seven-play, 92-yard drive, connecting on all five of his passes, including a 24-yard touchdown toss to Israel Abanikanda with 3:41 left.

Following the kickoff, on the Mountaineers’ second play from scrimmage, Daniels threw a pass that bounced off Ford-Wheaton’s hands, popped up in the air and was picked off by Devonshire. The cornerback weaved his way through traffic to give Pitt the lead.

West Virginia turned the ball over on downs at the Pitt 28-yard line on a fourth-down incomplete pass in the final minute to seal the outcome.

Slovis finished 16 of 24 for 308 yards and a touchdown. Panthers running back Rodney Hammond scored two TDs while amassing 74 yards on 16 carries. Jared Wayne had three receptions for 89 yards.

Daniels connected on 23 of 39 passes for 214 yards and two scores plus the one costly interception. Ford-Wheaton made nine catches for 97 yards and two scores, and CJ Donaldson ran for 125 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

The game was tied 10-10 at halftime after West Virginia’s Casey Legg booted a 24-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter, capping a 74-yard drive.

West Virginia opens its Big 12 schedule in its next contest, a home game against Kansas on Sept. 10. The same day, Pitt will play host to Tennessee.

–Field Level Media

Pitt begins life without quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) on Thursday night (file photo/Imagn).

No. 17 Pitt draws big backing in Backyard Brawl

No. 17 Pitt opens the season Thursday night in the first playing of the Backyard Brawl rivalry with West Virginia since 2011.

Host Pittsburgh is favored by 7 to 7.5 points and getting big backing from the public in a meeting of former USC quarterbacks.

The primetime Thursday game is the most wagered-on event this week at both BetRivers and BetMGM ahead of Saturday’s matchup of Top 5 teams in Columbus between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 Notre Dame.

Thursday’s game is the debut of former Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis, the chosen replacement for NFL draft pick Kenny Pickett (Steelers). He draws West Virginia’s new starting QB — and fellow former Trojans signal-caller — JT Daniels.

The Pitt money line (-275 as of Thursday morning) is the most popular bet by ticket count at BetRivers, while Pitt to cover -7.5 is the most popular wager by total handle.

Pitt -7 is the most bet game and bet type (spread) at BetMGM.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Utah Utes at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Kedon Slovis to start at QB for Pitt

Kedon Slovis will start at quarterback for Pitt when the No. 17 Panthers open the season against rival West Virginia on Sept. 1.

The Southern California transfer beat out Nick Patti, who backed up starter Kenny Pickett last fall. Pickett was a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in April.

Coach Pat Narduzzi said Wednesday that he and his staff considered the “whole body of work” from summer camp.

“We’ve looked at every tiny, little detail of every statistic, from third down, red zone, team,” Narduzzi told reporters. “It was not an easy decision.

“They both have a high IQ at that position. Both of them can lead our football team into an ACC schedule. We have confidence in both of them. Unfortunately, at the quarterback position, there’s one guy. It becomes a one-man show.”

Slovis entered the NCAA transfer portal earlier this winter after three seasons under center for USC.

In 27 career games, Slovis has thrown for 7,576 passing yards, 58 touchdowns and 24 interceptions on 68.4 percent passing. His stats have ticked down each year after an impressive freshman campaign in 2019, when he threw for 30 TDs against just nine picks in 12 starts.

The Trojans overhauled their program with the hire of coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma, who was able to flip Class of 2023 five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson from the Sooners to USC. Oklahoma starter Caleb Williams also followed Riley, narrowing the opportunities for Slovis.

Slovis ended the 2021 season with a lower leg injury, finishing the year with 2,153 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Nov 10, 2018; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers cornerback Derrek Pitts Jr. (1) celebrates after a turnover during the fourth quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Brawling in the front: West Virginia, Pitt open with critical rivalry game

West Virginia and No. 17 Pittsburgh kick off the 2022 season by renewing the Backyard Brawl series on Thursday.

“It’s been a great carrot for our guys as we’ve gone through winter, through spring ball, now through summer workouts to know that,” said West Virginia coach Neal Brown, whose Mountaineers have won three consecutive meetings with Pitt. “Man, we’ve got not only a game to look forward to but it’s a rivalry game that’s going to be in prime time. We’re not playing on so-called Week 0, but we are the premier Power Five game versus a Power Five opponent on Thursday night, and our guys are excited.”

The rivalry renewal is also a potential reunion for a pair of former USC Trojans quarterbacks.

Brown enters a pivotal season with the Mountaineers, who are coming off a 6-7 campaign in 2021. Brown is just 17-18 in three seasons in Morgantown, and while the program has made back-to-back bowl games, the Mountaineers are just 11-15 in Big 12 play.

Defense has been WVU’s calling card the last couple of seasons.

But WVU suffered some key personnel losses on that side of the ball and just three projected starters returning. There are depth issues in the secondary, but lineman Dante Stills should help this unit be one of the strongest in the league up front for coordinator Jordan Lesley.

Brown was able to woo JT Daniels through the transfer portal to run new coordinator Graham Harrell’s offense, which features five returning starters up front. Harrell was the play-caller at USC when Daniels was the starting quarterback for the Trojans in 2019.

Pitt won the ACC and went 11-3 last season and the program is doing its best to push players into thinking bigger.

“We would like to win a national championship,” Narduzzi said. “We want to be in the playoffs. We were one game last year away from being in that talk. … If you go to a 12-team playoff, we’re in it. That’s where we want to be.”

But Narduzzi has the difficult chore of replacing star quarterback Kenny Pickett and playmaking wide receiver Jordan Addison. However, former USC signal caller Kedon Slovis — who took over for an injured Daniels at USC in 2019 — has a chance to keep the offense humming under new coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr., who inherited all five starting linemen from last season and a deep backfield.

At any rate, Pitt is ready for a test. Any test.

“I feel like we’ve been in camp forever,” Narduzzi said.

Defensively, the Panthers return seven starters, including Calijah Kancey up front. The unit led the ACC in rush defense and limited teams to below 24 points per game last year, but replacing cornerback Damarri Mathis is a tough task, especially because the pass defense allowed a ton of big plays last season.

ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be on campus for this tilt, marking the crew’s first visit to Pittsburgh since 2005.

This game will mark the 105th edition of the Backyard Brawl, with Pitt owning a 61-40-3 record in the rivalry, though West Virginia won each of the last three matchups between the two programs from 2009-11, when both were members of the Big East.

–Field Level Media

Dec 30, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) runs after a catch against the Michigan State Spartans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt WR Jordan Addison picks Southern Cal

Wide receiver Jordan Addison announced Thursday that he will transfer from Pitt to Southern California.

Addison, a consensus All-American and the reigning Fred Biletnikoff Award winner for the best receiver in college football, appeared in the transfer portal earlier this month.

“The last few weeks have been very difficult,” Addison wrote in a social media post. “I struggled with my decision as to whether I should exercise my right to enter the portal. Student athletes have not always had that opportunity, and I made that choice.”

Addison went on to express his love and gratitude for Pitt, his teammates and coach Pat Narduzzi.

“I love them,” he wrote. “Winning an ACC championship is ours forever. Those true friendships will last.”

Addison had a breakout year as a sophomore, hauling in 100 receptions for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns while playing with Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett as his quarterback. Addison added 56 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground as the Panthers won their first ACC championship in football.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in late April that the Pitt football program believed USC and new coach Lincoln Riley tampered with Addison before he entered the portal. Addison also considered Texas and Alabama before picking the Trojans.

Riley, who left Oklahoma for the USC job in November, already added 15 players to the program via the transfer portal as of April. They include former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams, former Oregon running back Travis Dye and former Colorado wide receiver Brenden Rice, the son of Jerry Rice.

–Field Level Media

Dec 30, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) is tackled by Michigan State Spartans safety Xavier Henderson (3) after a long pass reception during the first half during the 2021 Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt All-American WR Jordan Addison enters transfer portal

Pitt wide receiver Jordan Addison, a consensus All-American and the reigning Fred Biletnikoff Award winner for the best receiver in college football, officially appeared in the transfer portal Tuesday.

Multiple media reports that appeared as early as last week said Addison was expected to depart Pitt for Southern California and join new coach Lincoln Riley. The Pitt football program believed that the Trojans tampered with Addison to sway him to transfer, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The newspaper also reported, citing sources, that Addison is being offered a “multimillion-dollar” name, image and likeness deal to play for the Trojans.

Players must be in the portal for coaches at other schools to contact them, leading to some speculation among fans that Riley and USC could have tampered.

Sunday was the deadline for fall and winter athletes to enter the portal in order to remain immediately eligible to play in 2022-23. But Addison’s name only appeared Tuesday once his paperwork had gone through, ESPN reported.

Addison has not made a final decision on whether to go to USC, find another program or return to Pitt, multiple reports added.

Addison had a breakout year as a sophomore, hauling in 100 receptions for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns while playing with Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett as his quarterback. Addison added 56 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground as the Panthers won their first ACC championship in football.

Pickett was the first quarterback taken in last week’s NFL draft, 20th overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers. One player competing for Pitt’s starting job in 2022 is Kedon Slovis, who transferred this offseason, ironically, from USC.

–Field Level Media