September 4, 2006

Strong debut for Pitt offense

The Pitt football team took a lot of criticism for its 5-6 season in 2005. The negativity wasn't centralized either: whether it was the coaching staff, the offense, the defense, or the special teams, there was enough criticism to go around. But the Panthers' convincing 38-13 victory over Virginia Saturday made progress toward answering some of that criticism.

For senior quarterback Tyler Palko, the results of the season opener couldn't come soon enough.

"Everybody was sick of talking about last year and how are we going to respond and what's going to happen and we don't have this and that," Palko said. "We just wanted to come out and play and see how good we were. I think that we're slowly finding out what kind of team we are."

And the team on display Saturday night was an effective, if not overpowering, squad. The Panthers' defense was in fine form, holding Virginia to 211 total yards, just 52 on the ground, and producing 14 points of their own via interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Palko's group on offense experience similar success, producing two huge one-off plays of their own: a 72-yard touchdown reception by redshirt freshman Oderick Turner in the second quarter and a 78-yard score on a pass from Palko to Derek Kinder in the third.

But beyond the two big touchdown plays, Pitt's offense came up with just two other scoring drives. The first drive of the game produced the Panthers' first touchdown of the season, and it was a prime example of what Pitt coaches, players, and fans hope 2006 will see out of the team's offense: a 14-play drive covering 65 yards, with seven rushing plays and seven passing plays.

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