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.
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.
Five months after legalizing sports betting and nearly 60 days after the projected opening date, a group of lawmakers and a corporate executive placed the ceremonial first sports bet at Rhode Island’s Twin River Sportsbook on Monday. In so doing, Rhode Island became the sixth non-Nevada state post-PASPA to open up for legal sports betting, and the first in New England.
Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, House Speaker Nicholas Matiello and Twin River Worldwide Holdings Chairman John Taylor Jr. placed the first bets after making remarks.
The sportsbook officially opened at 3 p.m. local time with an opening ceremony — in time for Monday Night Football. Rhode Island has only two casinos, Twin River and Tiverton, both owned by the same company. The Tiverton sportsbook is scheduled to open in December.
Rhode Island Becomes First in New England to Offer Sports Betting as Twin River Casino Hotel Opens Sportsbook
It’s information overload everywhere, and there’s not time enough to sleep and eat and stay fully apprised of what’s happening on this crazy blue dot of ours (two out of three ain’t bad).
Here’s the weekend Sports Handle item, “Get a Grip,” recapping the week’s top stories, and rounding up key stories in sports betting, gaming, and the world of sports at large. You may have missed them, and they are worth reading.
12 Billion Reasons There Is So Much Hype Around Pennsylvania Sports Betting; Launch Pad Readies at Hollywood Penn
The Hollywood Casino in Pennsylvania will make history on Saturday when it fully opens the first legal sportsbook in PA to the public. More than a year after legalizing sports betting, Pennsylvanians will finally be able to legally place a bet — and the state will begin to reap expected financial gains from sports betting. They already have, actually, in the form of $10 million application fee apiece from the six properties so far to apply for a sports wagering license.
Of the eight states that have legalized sports betting, Pennsylvania is the only that that has just about two of everything — NFL teams, MLB teams and NHL teams. The only pro sport with only one Pennsylvania franchise is the NBA.
Rhode Island lawmakers were counting on an immediate windfall of revenue from sports betting when they legalized sports wagering in June. But five months later, neither of the state’s two commercial casinos have opened their sportsbooks, and the projected opening date of Oct. 1 has come and gone.
Why? Testing of software is still ongoing, and negotiations between the state’s two casinos and William Hill and IGT, who will operate the sportsbooks, is taking longer than expected, according to Rhode Island Department of Revenue chief of information and public relations Paul Grimaldi.
“Our expectation is for sports betting to begin around Thanksgiving. I cannot give you a specific date today as it is dependent on the completion of testing of the IGT/William Hill sports betting software,” Grimaldi told Sports Handle in an e-mail Tuesday. “They released the software to the Division of Lottery on Nov. 5 We expect two weeks +/- for completion of the testing. The sportsbook will start taking bets once the software is certified.”
As states across the country are discussing legal sports betting, there has been much ado about sportsbooks operating on thin margins, which is news to a lot of lawmakers. By most accounts, a sportsbook earns between $1-$2 in net revenue from every $100 bet after all the money is divvied up. So where does the money go?
Much of it goes back to the winning bettors and there are the obvious expenses — paying employees, buying software and equipment, purchasing or renting space. And then there are taxes. The seven states that have legalized sports betting so far* apply wildly different tax rates on gross sports wagering revenue, from 6.75 percent in Nevada to more than 50 percent in Rhode Island.
Thirty-six states will elect governors next month, and we at Sports Handle wondered if sports betting was among the key issues in any states, or at least on the keychain.
In most cases, sports betting is not a hot topic and likely won’t be a deciding factor in electing a governor, but there are some states where legislatures have been actively exploring sports betting — and having a “friendly” governor will speed the process in those states. But in some cases, sports betting is a non-issue for the election.
Using the Mighty Mississippi as our divider, we present our findings in two parts. Today’s Part I focuses on where gubernatorial candidates in the East stand on sports betting:
Sports Betting Legalization’s Impact on Governor Races Across the U.S.: ‘East Coast’ Edition Looks Up and Down The Atlantic And Over to Central States
Alabama: Democrat Walt Maddox said in August that he believes sports betting should be part of the equation to solve the state’s financial troubles. After tweeting about that in August, he has not offered any additional thoughts on sports betting. The front-runner and incumbent, Republican Kay Ivey, has not weighed on sports betting, and for that matter, according to AL.com, has been avoiding debates or discussing the issues in general.
Sports wagering will be part of our calculus to address the lack of state troopers and the looming financial crisis for hospitals, mental health and corrections. Mississippi is taking full advantage of hundreds of millions of dollars without raising taxes #believe#alpoliticshttps://t.co/rcipSlBxPl
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Don’t rush! If there is one thing that regulators in states that have legal sports betting want to share, that’s it.
“I wouldn’t rush into this,” Delaware Lottery director Vernon Kirk said. “The world is still going to be there tomorrow. If you get started a little late, be thorough, talk to people who have experience with this and just be careful in your legislation and execution.”
On June 5, Delaware became the first state since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) to offer legal sports betting. Delaware had company upon the debut of New Jersey sports betting on June 14, while Mississippi, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are currently developing regulations, accepting applications and preparing with licensees to begin accepting wagers in the next few months. DE, PA and NJ Sports Betting Officials Agree: Rolling out Sports Betting Regulations Requires Patience, and States Want to Get It Right the First Time.
Delaware was particularly quick in debuting full-fledged wagering at its licensed properties, but the same facilities already were experienced in offering NFL parlay wagering in years passed, plus it had many of its rules, regulations and technology in place after attempting to offer full-fledged sports betting in 2009. One month in, things are going smoothly.
Other states may not have the luxury of past experience, or the ability to be as nimble as Delaware, the second smallest state by population in the nation.
But every state regulating body is likely feeling at least a little bit of pressure. Some lawmakers across the country have been touting sports betting as a windfall for their state budgets. In fact, Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo earmarked $23.5 million in sports betting revenue in her latest budget. Rhode Island made sports betting legal in late June.
To help get there, the state is taking 51 percent of all sports wagering revenue — by far the largest cut in the country. The state will still need to generate an awful lot of wagering and will not be allowing mobile betting off premises, either.
New Jersey will celebrate its first month anniversary of legal sports betting on July 14, which coincides with the first day that The Meadowlands will accept sports wagers. Currently, licensed sportsbooks are operating in three locations in New Jersey.
The Garden State was the driver of Murphy v NCAA, the case that escalated to the Supreme Court and resulted in the high court ruling PASPA unconstitutional. Monmouth Park, a key driver in the lawsuit, was the first to open for business.
“We are pleased with the rollout of sports wagering in New Jersey,” said David L. Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. “While actual wagering only started in June, the Division was preparing for this possibility well in advance. My advice for other jurisdictions would be to have good communication with the industry and look to strong regulatory models such as New Jersey as you move forward.”
‘Don’t Let Your Legislators Go Crazy and Make Ridiculous Projections,’ Warned Delaware Lottery Directory Vernon Kirk.
In Pennsylvania, which passed its enabling legislation in 2017, the state gaming commission is in the process of rolling out regulations to get started. And just as in any other state, regulators know the whole endeavor is driven by money.
“We understand that the expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania is being undertaken to raise more money for the commonwealth,” said Doug Harbach, Director of Communications for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. “We’re trying to get a potentially lucrative market up and running as soon as possible, but we want to make sure it has all of the necessary regulations to protect the public.”
Harbach’s sentiment was also echoed by Kirk in Delaware and down south, by Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission.
“The one thing I would say is to tamp down expectations,” Kirk said. “We’re doing really well, but don’t let your legislators go crazy and make ridiculous projections and saddle you with unrealistic expectations.”
Said Godfrey: “The numbers out there are so out of whack, I wouldn’t want to quote them,” Godfrey said of lawmakers’ pie-in-the-sky expectations. “Anything we get will be more than we’re getting now.”
Mississippi, Pennsylvania and West Virginia Are Aiming to Take First Legal Sports Bets During or Even Before, Football Season.
In Mississippi, sports betting regulations will go into effect on July 21. The state’s gaming commission has already received at least a handful of applications from potential operators and it appears that every commercial casino in the state will offer sports betting. The gaming commission, which has been overseeing the state’s 28 casinos for more than 25 years, moved swiftly to put out its regulations.
In West Virginia, the goal, according to West Virginia Lottery general counsel Danielle Boyd, is for the Mountaineer State to accept its first sports bet by football season, but no later than Sept. 1. West Virginia has five casinos. The state will roll out regulations under “emergency status.”
“It’s a different animal than anything that we’ve dealt with before and so knowing that, we’ve tried to surround ourselves with the best and the brightest consultants,” Boyd told Sports Handle in June. “One of the challenges has been making sure that we have the legislative rules we need, but avoiding ones we don’t. So we’ll need some flexibility.”
“We do have ’emergency status’ until early December as far as these legislative rules are concerned. So we can change them, we can add to them if we need to until December, but after that point, they would have to go through the legislative rule making process.”
Back in Pennsylvania, Harbach says the goal is slow and steady.
Focus of PA Sports Betting Regulations Is to Protect the Public.
“We know our chief role is to protect the public,” he said. “So we’re going to make sure we have it right. We’re not rushing anything.”
Pennsylvania lawmakers made sports betting legal in 2017 pending the status of PASPA. Since the Supreme Court decision came down, state regulators have rolled out draft regulations for sports betting and opened them to public comment. Those comments — from the professional sports leagues, Penn State University, Pitt and potential gaming operators — are under review. But the comment period is an example of why regulators can’t rush — it takes time to hear from stakeholders and then open conversations based on concerns.
Harbach thinks his group, similar to Delaware, has a bit of a leg up on other states. In the recent past, the gaming commission has had to develop regulations for fantasy sports and iGaming, among other issues, making sports betting legal a sixth new set of regulations to develop, he said.
Whether it’s sports betting or iGaming, Pennsylvania regulators would rather get it right the first time.
“The potential for revenue will be there when we are ready,” Harbach said. “We’re not feeling the pressure from the legislators. They understand that we need to get it right. There are some who see it as being beneficial as being ready before the football season, but we are not [aiming] for a particular sports season.”
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