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September 14, 2013It was the freshman show on Saturday at Heinz Field, as Pitt used a set of impressive newcomer performances to roll to a dominating 49-27 victory over New Mexico.
How much was Pitt's performance driving by youth? The Panthers (1-1, 0-1 ACC) scored five first-half touchdowns, and all five were scored by freshmen. Scott Orndoff struck first with a four-yard pass from Tom Savage in the first quarter after Tyler Boyd caught a 51-yard pass to move the offense inside the 10.
Boyd got his own touchdown on the next drive with a 33-yard scamper on a sweep, and James Conner got in on the act the next time Pitt got the ball, finishing a 60-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
Conner was the first freshman to reach the end zone multiple times when he took a handoff in the second quarter, spun out of a tackle and ran 38 yards for a touchdown. And Boyd capped the scoring at the end of the half with a highlight-reel catch over a defender in the end zone to give Pitt a 35-6 lead heading into halftime.
While the freshman offensive players were stealing the show, Pitt's defense was excelling in its own right. The Panthers forced New Mexico into five three-and-outs in the first half while holding the Lobos - who entered the game as the No. 17 rushing offense in the nation - to a net total of just five rushing yards before halftime.
New Mexico found some success in the third quarter. After a half-opening punt, the Lobos finally reached the end zones on their next two drives, with the second benefiting from a Conner fumble that gave the visitors the ball at the Pitt 29.
Pitt got its own short field at the start of the fourth quarter when redshirt junior Todd Thomas, seeing his first extended action of the season, blew up an attempted fake punt and gave the Panthers the ball at the New Mexico 33.
In the end, the numbers were a good indication of Pitt's dominance. The Panthers outgained the Lobos 525-270, rushing for 281 yards as a team. Boyd was the most impressive with 173 yards of total offense (134 receiving and 39 rushing on eight touches), while Conner rushed 12 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
Additionally, junior Isaac Bennett rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, marking the first time PItt has had two 100-yard rushers since Oct. 20, 2007, when LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling topped the century mark against Cincinnati at Heinz Field.
Savage finished with 236 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 13-of-17 passing.