Isaac Bennett rushed 30 times for 240 yards and three touchdowns - setting career highs in all three categories - and Pitt beat Old Dominion 35-24 Saturday night at Heinz Field.
Old Dominion actually took an early lead over Pitt, as the Monarchs marched 64 yards on 10 plays to open the game with a touchdown. And after a Pitt punt, ODU kicker Jarod Brown connected from 54 yards - the longest kick in the history of Heinz Field - to push the lead to 10-0.
But the Pitt offense found its groove in the second quarter. Bennett hit the end zone three times in the second quarter with scoring runs of 25, 3 and 16 yards to give Pitt a 21-10 scoring advantage. The junior rushed for 84 yards on nine carries on the second quarter and went into halftime with 127 yards on 15 carries.
Pitt's offensive line continued to push Old Dominion's defense around in the second half, taking the opening drive of the third quarter 77 yards for a touchdown to stretch the lead to 28-10. But Old Dominion had an answer in the form of a 47-yard pass from Taylor Heinecke to receiver Blair Roberts for a touchdown.
That play alone didn't figure to slow down Pitt's offense, but what happened next did, as ODU kicker Jarod Brown attempted and recovered an onside kick after the touchdown. The Monarchs followed that swing with a 69-yard drive that was boosted by a personal foul penalty on Aaron Donald and a 24-yard run by Heinecke before ODU's Antonio Vaughn ran in from 17 yards.
All of a sudden, the game was in jeopardy again, as Pitt's lead had been cut to 28-24 with a pair of unanswered Old Dominion touchdowns. And the Panthers didn't have a response, as they punted the next time they had the ball. But a big defensive stop led to another Pitt possession, and this time the Panthers used a pair of trio Dominion penalties to set up Tom Savage's five yard run for Pitt's fifth touchdown.
From there, the Panthers held off a variety of ODU attacks to cling to the 35-24 lead.
Pitt's defense didn't do a great job of containing Heinecke, the reigning Walter Payton Award winner. The junior quarterback threw for 312 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but he also heaved a desperation throw late in the fourth quarter that was picked off by Pitt safety Ray Vinopal.
For Pitt, Bennett ran wild but Savage struggled. The redshirt senior quarterback completed 11-of-18 passes for just 104 yards and a touchdown. He looked tentative throughout the game and scrambled several times, and a number of his passes were well off the mark.
Pitt was without leading receiver Devin Street, who sat out Saturday's game with a shoulder injury he suffered against Virginia Tech. Freshman Tyler Boyd caught six passes for 46 yards, while Manasseh Garner had a touchdown reception in the third quarter.
The Panthers will go on the road next week for another non-conference game when they play Navy in Annapolis on Saturday.
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