Pitt’s Shocky Jacques-Louis conducts himself — and the band — in a winning manner
Pitt sophomore wide receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis caught four passes for 104 yards, carried twice for another 20 and even returned two kickoffs for a total of 36.
Then, after Pitt’s 34-27 overtime victory against North Carolina on Thursday night at Heinz Field, he climbed a ladder and conducted the Pitt band.
He seemingly could do it all, but he said, “I can do a lot more. This is just the beginning.”
Pitt recruited Jacques-Louis out of Fort Myers, Fla., because he projected as a player who — in the football vernacular — can take the top off a defense. In other words, he can run real fast.
He did that Thursday, catching a 74-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kenny Pickett that gave Pitt a 17-7 lead in the second quarter.
“I’m finally healthy so I’m able to run full speed,” he said. “They tried to stop me, but couldn’t.”
He said Pickett told him before the play, “Run the top off. I’m coming to you.”
Jacques-Louis responded, “‘I can run by him.”
He, actually ran past two Tar Heels defenders, but he also used his head, along with his speed.
“He wasn’t letting me get outside, so I told (Pickett) on the post, ‘I’m just going to go inside.’ ”
Jacques-Louis’ role in the offense has grown through the past several weeks, but Thursday was his biggest opportunity with senior wide receiver Maurice Ffrench out with a broken jaw.
“I definitely thought this was a big opportunity for me to make a name for myself,” he said. “I went out there and balled out and I’m going to keep balling out.”
The touchdown felt especially satisfying. Earlier in the first half, he caught a tipped pass in the end zone, but the touchdown call was overturned by replay review when it was determined the ball hit the turf as Jacques-Louis landed. “I definitely made the catch. It didn’t hit the ground,” he said.
Pitt punted only twice, and the duties were shared by Kirk Christodoulou and kicker Alex Kessman.
Coach Pat Narduzzi wanted the starter, Christodoulou, to sky one that the gunners could run around. And Aaron Mathews did just that in the third quarter, catching the ball before it hit the ground at the 5-yard line.
Later in the fourth quarter, Kessman punted 42 yards from his goal line.
“I haven’t been real happy with our punt game and, really, we had kind of a punt tryout and Kess won the job,” Narduzzi said. “We didn’t punt much (Thursday), but he would have punted all the regular punts.
“And Kirk was going to kick our sky punts because he’s been outstanding with that all year.
“So, we’ll see who wins it this week.”
Kessman also hit two of three field-goal attempts, giving him 13 good boots in his past 16. He hit from 41 and 24 yards and missed from 26.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .