After Browne Leads Pitt Past Rice 42-10, Syracuse Looms

2017 Pitt 42 Rice 10 football in Pittsburgh

Rice came to town. Then they went home. What happened in between seems rather questionable in the grander scheme of things for the Pitt Panthers. What we know is Pitt defeated a far inferior Conference USA opponent. What we don’t know is whether that is any kind of indication of things to come as Pitt takes on the balance of its 2017 ACC conference schedule.

The fact is this 2017 Pitt football team is still quite an enigma. Despite beating Rice 42-10 this past Saturday at Heinz Field, question marks still loom large with the Panthers. Questions that will start to be answered in upstate Western NY this upcoming Saturday against long-time foe and ACC rival Syracuse.

For starters, can Pitt run block? Seems like there are serious doubts. Can Pitt muster any sort of pass rush? Doesn’t seem like it. Is the Pitt secondary healthy? Not sure. Is senior graduate transfer QB Max Browne for real? Who the heck knows.

Lets at least appreciate the game Browne played against Rice. It was his best performance by far since becoming a Panther earlier this year. He completed 28 passes on 32 attempts for 410 yards and 4 TDs.

What we don’t know is whether that is just a reflection of playing against a weak opponent or rather some tangible improvement in Browne’s play.

The first drive was quite efficient. Browne handed ball off to junior WR Quadree Henderson, who gained 3 yards on the first play from scrimmage. After connecting with Henderson on a screen pass for 10 yards, Browne was sacked by Rice’s LB Brian Womac for a loss of 9 yards.

Browne then completed a nice pass to redshirt senior WR Jester Weah for 14 yards before finding Pitt sophomore WR Aaron Mathews for 9 yards to the Rice 48 yard line.

Sophomore tailback Chawntez Moss was then stuffed for no gain on the next snap, again leaving many Pitt fans to wonder if the Panthers have serious issues in the run blocking department.

Browne was able to save the drive however by rolling out of the pocked and hitting Moss on a nice wheel route for a 48 yard TD pass. Pitt 7 Rice 0.

The Pitt defense then forced a Rice punt on the ensuing series and the Pitt offense went right back to work.

First, Browne completed a nice pass to Mathews for 14 yards to the Pitt 34 yard line. Then Moss found a small hole and gained 11 yards on his second carry on the day. The drive was capped when Browne floated a flag route pass to a wide-open Weah for 55 yards for the Panther TD. Pitt 14 Rice 0.

Rice would punt again and put the ball back into the hands of the Pitt offense.

Like a surgeon, Browne found Moss for 15 yards and then let the running game take over. Henderson started the rushing blitzkrieg with a 9 yard run on a jet sweep which was followed by a Moss carry for 4 yards to the Owls 12 yard line.

Junior tailback Qadree Ollison then tacked on a 2 yard run and a 10 yard TD run right up the middle to cement the drive. Pitt 21 Rice 0.

After Rice punted yet again, Pitt would drive to the Owls 1 yard line but failed to convert from short distance after a Moss fumble.

The Owls couldn’t capitalize either after the Panther turnover and ended up punting again. Pitt wouldn’t be denied though on its fifth drive of the day.

Browne led the drive with a swing pass to Henderson who ran it 21 yards to the Rice 40. Enter Pitt superstar two-way player (Safety and WR) Jordan Whitehead, who took a jet sweep 24 yards to the Rice 16.

Pitt freshman tailback A.J. Davis then ran it for 2 yards before Browne connected a short 1 yard pass to seldom used redshirt sophomore tight end Chris Clark. Browne then completed a slant pass to Mathews for 10 yards to the Owls 3 yard line. That set up Moss, who ran it 2 yards and then 1 yard for the eventual score. Pitt 28 Rice 0.

It would remain that way through halftime.

Rice did manage to score the game’s only points in the 3rd quarter. Owls QB Jackson Tyner connected with WR Austin Walter on a 1 play, 70 yard drive that slipped by Pitt sophomore safety Damar Hamlin for a TD on a simple curl route. This came after a 23 yard field goal by Owls kicker Haden Tobola. Pitt 28 Rice 10 going into the 4th Quarter.

But the Pitt offense was just too good for the Owls on this day.