Pitt quarterback Kevan Smith threw his first career touchdown pass, a 50-yarder to tight end Nate Byham, as the Panthers rolled to a 31-10 halftime lead over Grambling State at Heinz Field.
Smith, a redshirt freshman from Seneca Valley, got the nod over true freshman Pat Bostick to start in place of the injured Bill Stull (right thumb). Smith has completed 12 of 17 passes for 132 yards in the first half, as the Panthers accounted for 182 yards to Grambling’s 101.
Grambling had cut its deficit to 11 points after defensive end Christian Anthony sacked Smith to force a fumble that was recovered by John Scroggins at Pitt’s 17-yard line.
In three plays, the Tigers lost 1 yard and settled for a Tim Manuel 35-yard field goal to cut it to 21-10 with 6:41 left in the half.
Then Smith found Byham for a 28-10 lead, which the Panthers increased after safety Mike Phillips intercepted a pass and returned it to the Grambling 4. The Panthers settled for a 30-yard Conor Lee field goal for an 21-point advantage with 58 seconds left in the half.
LeSean “Shady” McCoy showed shades of greatness in the first quarter, scoring three touchdowns to give Pitt a 21-7 lead. McCoy, a 6-foot, 210-pound freshman tailback from Harrisburg, has rushed for 63 yards on eight carries and caught three passes for 16 yards.
Pitt used a 10-play, 71-yard drive highlighted by McCoy’s 25-yard run and 17-yard reception and capped by his first career touchdown on a 5-yard run with 8:18 remaining in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Pitt walk-on linebacker Brian Kaiser blocked a Grambling punt, and middle linebacker Scott McKillop recovered it at the 15. A holding penalty against the Tigers gave Pitt first-and-goal at the 7, and McCoy scored on the next play for a 14-0 lead with 5:47 remaining in the first quarter.
McCoy scored his third touchdown shortly after McKillop caused another turnover, tipping a pass that was intercepted by safety Eric Thatcher at the Grambling 31. After an 18-yard pass from Smith to Strong, McCoy dashed 13 yards to the end zone to give the Panthers a 21-0 lead.
McCoy is the first Pitt player to rush for three touchdowns in a game since LaRod Stephens-Howling did so in a 52-7 victory at Central Florida last October.
Grambling responded with a five-play, 56-yard drive capped by a 29-yard pass from Brandon Landers to Clyde Edwards, who made diving catch in the end zone to cut it to 21-7 with 1:15 remaining.