Pitt Survives Overtime Scare from Youngstown State
PITTSBURGH – Jester Weah’s first catch of the game helped Pitt save itself from a second embarrassing loss to Youngstown State in five years, as the Panthers held off a second-half Penguins rally to secure a 28-21 overtime win over the visiting FCS school.
(Photo: Jester Weah is mobbed by teammates after his go-ahead touchdown in overtime. Photo courtesy of Pitt Athletics)
Pitt led 21-0 at halftime thanks to a pair of Qadree Ollison touchdown runs and an A.J. Davis short scoring jaunt.
But Youngstown State roared back in the second half scoring 21 straight points including a pair of Hunter Wells to Christian Turner touchdown passes in the final 6:10 of regulation to force overtime.
Pitt had a chance to win in regulation, but freshman kicker Alex Kessman missed a 38-yard field goal as time expired. It was the second miss of the fourth quarter for Kessman, who also missed from 28 yards out.
But in overtime, Pitt went back on top when Max Browne hit Weah from 11 yards out on the first possession of overtime after Youngstown State won the toss and elected to play defense.
The Penguins had a chance to tie or win the game picking up a first down at the Pitt 13-yard line following three straight runs by Tevin McCaster that picked up 12 yards. But on first-and-10 from the 13, Wells was intercepted in the end zone by Bricen Garner saving the Panthers.
Watch Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi’s postgame media conference. Video courtesy of Pitt UPMC Live Wire.
Pitt jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the game’s first possession when Ollison capped an 11-play, 71-yard drive with a 6-yard scoring run. Then, late in the first quarter, a 5-yard Ollison scoring run made it 14-0. That ended another 11-play drive this one covering 88 yards.
A third long drive of the first half, this one a 16-play, 74-yard drive, ended on a 1-yard Davis touchdown run putting the Panthers ahead 21-0 late in the half.
But a long drive of its own late in the third quarter helped Youngstown State regain some momentum.
Taking over at its 10-yard line following a 34-yard Pitt punt, the Penguins embarked on an 11-play, 90-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard McCaster run to make it 21-7 with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
Pitt looked like it was going to put the game away early in the fourth quarter after a big special teams play that saw James Folston Jr. block a Youngstown State punt from the Pitt 39 and Jazzee Stocker scoop it up and return it 66 yards to the Penguins’ 4-yard line where Justin Spencer caught him.
But two runs by Ollison went for one yard, and on third-and-goal from the three, Browne was sacked by Wesley Thompson at the 10 forcing a 28-yard field goal try by Kessman, who hit the right upright.
Taking over from the Youngstown State 20, the Penguins went 80 yards in nine plays scoring on a 25-yard Wells to Turner pass with 6:10 to play cutting the Pitt lead to 21-14.
Disaster then struck for Pitt after it had moved to midfield when Browne was sacked by Justus Reed and fumbled the ball with Reed recovering at the Pitt 42.
Two plays later, Wells hooked up with Turner from 42 yards out to tie the game at 21 with 3:35 to play.
Pitt tried to counter with Browne picking up 13 yards on third-and-14 from the Panthers 33 with 1:51 to play and then head coach Pat Narduzi gambled going for it on fourth-and-1 from the Pitt 46. The gamble paid off when Davis picked up the first down on a 2-yard run.
But the drive looked in trouble when Browne’s pass to Ollison lost five yards setting up a second-and-15 from the 43. And it looked even more in trouble when his next pass fell incomplete. But Youngstown State’s Frazson Chapman was called for roughing the passer setting the Panthers up at the Youngstown State 42.
Facing third-and-3 from the Penguins 35, Browne hit Maurice Ffrech, who slipped a tackle and picked up 18 yards to the Penguins 17 with time running down. Browne then ran the ball to the middle of the field losing three yards back to the 20 with four seconds left setting up Kessman for the potential game-winning kick. But this time the freshman went wide right forcing the overtime.
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