Starkey: Pitt does its duty
This is what you're supposed to do when a team as bad as Dreadful Delaware comes to town.
You're supposed to tear it apart, limb by limb, the instant the national anthem ends. You're supposed to eat it alive. You're supposed to render it hopeless. You're supposed to be wiping your mouth and ordering dessert by halftime.
So, good for Pitt. The Panthers did what they were supposed to do. They jumped to a 42-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 62-0 shutout of the Fightin' Blue Hens under fabulous blue skies Saturday at Heinz Field. No Pitt team had won by that many points since Jackie Sherrill's 1977 outfit trampled Temple, 76-0.
If you've been following Pitt for any length of time, you know it doesn't always do what it's supposed to do. Rather, it specializes in creating drama where drama shouldn't exist.
In the Paul Chryst era alone, the Panthers have dropped a season opener to Youngstown State (Pitt's only loss to an FCS opponent) and looked horrible in a too-close-for-comfort home game against Old Dominion.
On this day, Pitt outgained the opponent, 501-64, and its two best players were unstoppable from the start. Tyler Boyd went video-game crazy in the first half before leaving with a dislocated finger sustained on a punt return (I was told it was his left pinky). James Conner bulldozed his way to 153 yards and four touchdowns in the first 24 minutes.
But we knew those guys were good.
Boyd is just a breathtaking talent who nearly scored the first time he touched the ball — a punt return where he split two defenders and broke three tackles. He nearly scored the second time, too, on a jet sweep that looked dead until Boyd suddenly was sprinting down the left sideline. Only a shoestring tackle stopped him. He also made a diving touchdown catch.
Then came the injury, which set the Twitter-sphere ablaze. Folks were blaming Chryst for letting Boyd return a punt with a 28-0 lead.
What's the issue? There were still seven minutes left in the first half. You don't stop competing with your best players that early. As mentioned, you want the game finished by halftime. You never want to give a team life, which Kevin Weatherspoon's fumble on the previous Delaware punt nearly did.
Boyd, by all indications, should be OK. He was said to be joking in the locker room before the end of the first half and indicated to teammates the injury was not a big deal.
“I think he'll be fine,” quarterback Chad Voytik said.
I asked Chryst if he had any second thoughts about putting Boyd under a punt with a four-touchdown lead.
“No, no,” Chryst said. “Tyler got hurt carrying the ball, and we're going to put him in that position a lot.”
Pretty good line, right? Chryst had a better one in the postgame media room when the television to his right was repeating his words on a delay.
“It's bad enough I gotta talk,” he said, “and then to hear it again?”
As for his team, what could really be gleaned on a day like this? You saw the opponent. Dreadful Delaware was as bad as advertised. This is a team that lost to Navy and Maine by a combined score of 113-35 last season, a team that was called for delay of game as it lined up for the second-half kickoff.
Voytik, making his first career start, didn't get a chance to show much because Chryst rightly stayed with a dominant ground game. Voytik went 10 for 13 for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
We'll know a lot more about the Panthers on Friday night, when they visit Boston College. They'll need Boyd, for sure, because even if BC isn't exactly Florida State, it's not Dreadful Delaware. The exhibition season's done.
It was fun.
Stuff gets real Friday.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.