Pittsburgh, PA — It took all of two minutes for Oklahoma State to make a statement not only to the Pitt Panthers, but the entire Heinz Field crowd of 38,952.
This was the second consecutive contest in which Pitt played a top-10 team and the Panthers fell 59-21 to Oklahoma State, falling to 1-2 in the process.
This was Pitt’s biggest home defeat since Heinz Field opened in 2001.
“It was about the worst day you could have at the office,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “If there was a hangover from last week, obviously that starts with me. That’s a top-five football team for sure.”
Oklahoma State immediately peppered Pitt by changing speeds with its offensive attack mixing rushes in with passes and a 20-yard Justice Hill rushing touchdown, the last of three consecutive ground play calls, gave Oklahoma State the lead.
“Our players were really focused and they did a really nice job in preparation,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “As a coach that’s so gratifying. To see guys get ready to play a game, prepare and execute.”
In total, OSU ran 37 pass plays and 35 rushing plays proving the balance it had in its attack.
After Pitt went three and out, Oklahoma State put together an 11-play drive which culminated in a 54-yard pass play from quarterback Mason Rudolph to Dillon Stoner. This was Stoner’s first career touchdown.
In the next Oklahoma State possession, Rudolph faced a 3rd-and-11 at his own 31 yard line, broke two tackles and found Marcell Ateman for a 69-yard touchdown. Ateman did push off on the Pitt defender, but no penalty was called.
After the first quarter, Oklahoma State had 10 first downs to Pitt’s two and also had the ball for 1:24 less as well.
Oklahoma State continued its offensive success in the second quarter. Rudolph was comfortable in the pocket all game and every third down, he was well aware of the first down marker.
As Pitt continued to struggle on offense, fans let their frustrations become more known. After Rudolph found Jalen McCleskey for a 40-yard touchdown, Ben DiNucci relieved Max Browne at quarterback.
It was a decision met by thunderous applause from Pitt fans.
This faith was rewarded as DiNucci quickly drove Pitt down the field in a four play drive that ended with a five yard rushing touchdown from Chawntez Moss.
DiNucci remained Pitt’s quarterback for entire second half and ended up throwing for a career-high 228 yards though he did have two third quarter interceptions.
“There was some good stuff and stuff I need to improve on,” he said. “Other then that (the two interceptions) we moved the ball a little bit and do some things. I’ll have to look at the tape but I think I did okay.”
Browne was not made available to reporters after the game.
DiNucci’s play was enough to make Narduzzi admit to there being a decision next week.
“I think we have two pretty good quarterbacks but do we have a great quarterback no, not right now,” said Narduzzi.
Rudolph entered the contest with 185 consecutive passes thrown without an interception and on his 32nd pass of the afternoon flinched in a pass picked off by Pitt’s Avonte Maddox. This gave Rudolph 216 consecutive passes without an interception which surpassed the streak Brandon Weeden had with OSU in 2011. Rudolph’s newly snapped streak started Nov. 5, 2016.
With around five minutes left in the third quarter, Taylor Cornelius replaced Rudolph. Rudolph finished 23-32 for 497 yards and five touchdowns in addition to the one interception, good for a quarterback rating of 247.7.
With Rudolph under center, Oklahoma State was 9-for-9 on third down plays. Additionally, Oklahoma State had four receivers amass 100 yards or more in Jalen McCleskey (162), James Washington (124), Marcell Ateman (109) and Dillon Stoner (100). According to ESPN Stats & Info, this makes Oklahoma State the first FBS team with four 100-yard receivers in a game since Texas Tech in 2005 against Kansas State.
“There’s some personnel differences from last year to this year, but they are who they are,” Rudolph said of Pitt’s defense. “Their (defensive coordinator) isn’t going to change. He’s an old school guy, he’s a great coach.”
Rudolph’s 423 yards passing in the first half was a school record.
“That’s an explosive team,” Pitt cornerback Avonte Maddox said. “Coming into the game, we knew what they were going to do but they executed and we didn’t.”
Pitt had several opportunities especially in OSU’s second first quarter drive to end the drive, with a couple coming inside of the 10-yard line, but none of those materialized.
“Obviously it’s tough, you’re searching for answers and sometimes there are none,” Pitt defensive back Dennis Briggs said. “It’s a process and we’re just trying to get better. This definitely feels like a step back, the numbers will tell you the story. We need to draw from that and start faster the next game.”
Next up for Pitt is a road game against Georgia Tech on Sept. 23 at 12:20 p.m. The game will be televised by the ACC Network.
Going into overtime
Pitt allowed 676 total yards, the most given up in school history. The previous high was 675 set Sept. 11, 1993… Pitt wide receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes had career-highs with his six receptions and 89 yards. His second quarter touchdown was also the first of his career.