Florida State spoils Pitt's ACC debut with 41-13 victory
The questions surrounding the Pitt football team on the eve of its entrance into the ACC centered on its inexperienced offense.
Yet, it was the defense that had no answers Monday night at Heinz Field.
Led by sensational redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, No. 11 Florida State gave Pitt (0-1, 0-1) a rude welcome to its new conference, scoring four touchdowns in the first half on the way to an easy 41-13 victory before a sellout crowd of 65,500 at Heinz Field. It was the first Pitt home sellout since a loss to Notre Dame in 2011.
“They beat us in a lot of phases,” Pitt coach Paul Chryst said.
Pitt's defensive failures were discouraging for a team that returned eight starters on that side of the ball. Chryst gave credit to the Seminoles' athletic playmakers.
“The common denominator was you got some good players making plays,” Chryst said. “We can say we have to tackle better, but yet they ran through some tackles.”
Florida State (1-0, 1-0) scored on short fields after two interceptions gave the Seminoles possession on the Pitt 24 and 41. FSU also carried the Pitt defense nearly the entire length of the field on dominant 81- and 78-yard drives in the first half.
Overall, Florida State accumulated 533 yards, including 156 on the ground.
Winston was nearly perfect. He completed 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns. One of his incomplete passes was not his fault. His sideline throw to Kenny Shaw was on target, but Shaw failed to get his feet in bounds. Winston also ran for 25 yards on eight attempts, including a 5-yard touchdown late in the first half.
Pitt generated little pass rush and recorded only two sacks..
Three of Winston's touchdown passes went for 24, 2 and 10 yards to tight end Nick O'Leary, the grandson of golfer Jack Nicklaus.
Rashad Greene caught a 23-yard score with 38 seconds left in the half after Pitt quarterback Tom Savage's second interception.
Savage, who played in his first game since he was a backup at Rutgers in 2010, had spotty success, completing 15 of 28 passes for 201 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
“I would have liked to get the win, but I saw a lot of bright spots in the offense,” Savage said. “Playing Florida State in the first game, I wouldn't want it any other way.”
Savage was sacked three times, and he shouldered the blame.
“I've got to get rid of the ball quicker,” he said
Pitt gave its fans reason for hope when it scored on the first offensive series of the season. Savage, who threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Manasseh Garner, became the first player in school history to record a scoring toss for and against the Panthers. He threw one for Rutgers in 2010, also at Heinz Field.
The drive was smoothly executed, with Savage completing a 31-yard pass to wide receiver Devin Street on the first third down of the game. He finished the drive with three completions in four attempts for 51 yards.
“We got hit in the mouth and got right back in it,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Chryst was pleased with his players' effort, but it was a hollow victory.
“We shouldn't get a gold star for that,” he said “That's to be expected.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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