Pitt was comfortably ahead when the Panthers got the ball with 23 seconds left in the first half against New Mexico at Heinz Field on Saturday. Aaron Donald had just brought the visitors' final drive of the half to an end with a fourth-down sack at the Pitt 37, and the home team had a 28-6 lead after a dominating 30 minutes.
It would have been completely reasonable in that situation for Pitt's offense to take a knee and go into the locker room with a three-touchdown advantage.
But Tyler Boyd had other ideas.
"Before we even took the field, me and (Devin) Street were standing right next to each other and I said, 'Man, we're about to go out there and score right before halftime,'" Boyd said Monday. "He was like, 'I don't even know if we're going to go back on the field; we're probably going to take a knee.'
"I said, 'If we go out there, we're scoring.' He said, 'Alright, I'm rolling with you.' He was riding with me; all down for it.
"So once we took the field, that's all our intentions were. We were like, 'Hurry up, we have to get back on the ball, get set and run the next play.' Once we did that, everything just fell through and we did what we thought was going to happen."
What happened was quarterback Tom Savage ran for seven yards and got an extra 15 on a late hit penalty. Then, on first down from the New Mexico 34 with 14 seconds remaining, Savage took the shotgun snap, dropped back, scrambled to his right and let one fly for the end zone.
"When I was in the back of the end zone, I saw the ball and said, 'I want to make this play and I've got to. The time is going to be out and I've got one chance to do it.'"
Somehow, with a defender in his face and his feet nearing the back line of the end zone, Boyd did it. He made an incredible catch and, after a brief huddle, the officials ruled it a touchdown. The catch was Boyd's third big play of the half, following a 51-yard catch to set up Pitt's first touchdown and a 33-yard score of his own on a jet sweep.
The freshman from Clairton finished with 134 yards and a touchdown on six receptions and 39 rushing yards on two attempts, and his performance earned ACC Receiver of the Week honors.
"It's like a dream come true," Boyd said of his early-career success. "It was everything I expected, but I didn't know I was going to go through it this early. I'm just really happy for it and I'm thankful for everybody that helped me get here."
Boyd announced his presence in Pitt's season opener against Florida State with 54 rushing yards on three jet sweeps, 26 yards on two receptions and 71 yards on three kick returns. But the New Mexico game became his next breakout game, and chances are, the best is yet to come.
"I just go out there and make as much plays as possible," he said. "There's just something about me; I'm really athletic and I want the ball in my hands. When they recruited me, they asked me if I wanted to play DB or receiver; I said I wanted to be on the offensive side, I can do real special things with the ball in my hands."
In fact, Boyd seems to have continued the success he had at Clairton, where he set the WPIAL record with 117 career touchdowns and rushed for 5,755 yards. Conventional wisdom would have it that Boyd couldn't carry his Clairton production to Pitt, at least not in his freshman season, but he seems to have done just that.
"It's only been two games, but coming in here, I thought it was going to be way tougher than what [it is]," Boyd said. "I'm not saying it's really easy like high school or nothing, but I just give all the credit to all the work I put in through the summer and all the help the coaches have given me and all the players helping me to succeed through all of these accomplishments."
And there are certainly a lot more people watching his accomplishments now. In fact, Boyd was one of the hottest names in Pittsburgh as his performance on Saturday became more and more exceptional.
"After the game, one of the coaches came to me and said 'You know you were trending (on Twitter),'" Boyd said. "I said, 'Aw man, I already know my phone is probably going to be dead.' There were just a whole bunch of messages; I couldn't even read all of them. But I was just really happy that everybody watched and knew what I was capable of doing."
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