Panthers crush Delaware in opener 62-0
Conner scored on runs of 7, 8, 1 and 19 yards as the Panthers opened the season with a victory for the first time under third-year coach Paul Chryst. Pitt pushed the overmatched Blue Hens around, outgaining Delaware 501-64 to post the program's first shutout in nine years.
Chad Voytik completed 12 of 15 passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns in his first start, including a 12-yard strike to sophomore wide receiver Tyler Boyd that gave the Panthers a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Boyd, who set school freshman records for receptions and receiving yards last fall, left in the second quarter with a dislocated finger in his left hand.
Pitt will need Boyd if it wants to make noise in the ACC's wide-open Coastal Division. His presence was hardly required on a day the Panthers dominated Delaware from the first snap to the last.
Chryst helped turn Wisconsin into a scoring machine while serving as the Badgers' offensive coordinator 2006-11 by relying on a massive line. Finally settled at Pitt, Chryst is hoping to do the same with the Panthers.
The early returns were promising. Relying heavily on the 50-pound per man size advantage up front, Pitt controlled the line of scrimmage.
Boyd ripped off a 34-yard punt return to set the Panthers up early, and Pitt's first touchdown of the season provided a blueprint for what Chryst hopes his team looks like in 2014. The Panthers needed four plays to go 41 yards, all four plays handoffs by Voytik to either Boyd or Conner.
Pitt's second drive looked much like the first with a couple of short passes from Voytik sprinkled in. Boyd made a diving grab in the left corner of the end zone for Voytik's first career touchdown pass and Pitt led 14-0 before the game was 13 minutes old.
Terrish Webb picked off Delaware's Nick Hundley on the next offensive snap and four more Pitt rushes - the last a twisting 8-yard burst by Conner - pushed it to 21-0 by the end of the first quarter.
Delaware, a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, hoped it could hang around long enough to beat a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent for the first time since 2007 when current Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was under center.
It didn't happen. Not even close. Pitt's only real miscue came early in the second quarter when Kevin Weatherspoon muffed a punt and the Blue Hens recovered. Hurley, who grew up an hour outside of Pittsburgh, lobbed a pass to the end zone that landed in the hands of Pitt's Todd Thomas.
The Panthers took over at the 1 and sent backup quarterback Trey Anderson onto the field to spell Voytik. No matter. Pitt covered 99 yards in eight plays - all on the ground - including a career-long 60-yard sprint by Conner, who was pulled down at the Delaware 3. It delayed the inevitable. Two plays later Conner was in the end zone again and the rout was on.
Still, Boyd provided a scare when he banged his hand on a tackler's helmet while returning a punt in the second quarter. He held his hand while making his way to the sideline and was promptly taken to the locker room. He returned to watch the second half with his hand bandaged. His status for next Friday's game at Boston College is uncertain.