7:00 PM ET, September 6, 2003
Heinz Field, PITTSBURGH, PA
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Maybe a troubling week off the field made Pittsburgh quarterback Rod Rutherford eager to show again what he can do on it.
Rutherford, benched at the start for disciplinary reasons, threw four touchdown passes in the second quarter and No. 10 Pittsburgh breezed to a 43-3 victory over Kent State on Saturday night.
Larry Fitzgerald, far too quick and athletic to be contained by Kent State's undersized secondary, caught scoring passes of 7, 11 and 54 yards in less than 10 minutes as Pitt turned a 3-0 deficit into a 28-3 halftime lead.
Rutherford, charged Friday over a parking lot dispute with a 19-year-old woman last weekend, came on following a blocked punt and immediately threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Princell Brockenbrough, It was the first throw and play of the season for Rutherford and the first career catch for Brockenbrough, a junior college transfer who sat out last season with a knee injury.
Pittsburgh (1-0) looked like a totally different team once Rutherford came on after punting on its first three possessions with redshirt freshman Luke Getsy at quarterback.
Rutherford also looked like a totally different quarterback than he did in Pitt's opener last season. Then, in his first career start, he was intercepted three times in an unimpressive 27-14 victory over Ohio University.
Despite a disconcerting week filled with police interviews and meeting with his attorney, Rutherford didn't look distracted or unprepared when he came on with Pitt trailing 3-0.
Rutherford, nearly as big as some of Pitt's linebackers at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, hit Brockenbrough in the numbers with a line drive of a pass on his first throw, and went on to complete 17 of 25 passes for 288 yards and no interceptions in only two quarters.
"He's got a lot of games to go, but he was on top of it," Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris said. "He made it happen for us. I couldn't be more proud of his ability to deal with this challenge and get ready and not just play, but play as well as he did."
Despite praising Rutherford, Harris emphasized his senior star faces additional internal disciplinary action, though the coach doesn't plan to reveal what it is.
"We would like to put this behind us as soon as we can," Harris said.
Pittsburgh did not make Rutherford available for comment.
"He got them pumped up," Kent State safety Shannon Davis said. "He's got a great arm he had all day to put it in there."
Fitzgerald took advantage of frequent one-on-one coverage to make six catches for 123 yards. He also caught a touchdown pass for a school-record seventh consecutive game.
"It definitely got frustrating after awhile going against him," Davis said.
His first touchdown catch, a leaping 7-yarder in the end zone, came just 2:12 after Brockenbrough's touchdown and finished off an 80-yard, six-play drive.
Fitzgerald's next two scores also ended quick drives, with Rutherford's 23-yard throw to Brockenbrough setting up Fitzgerald's 11-yard touchdown on a two-play drive.
Pitt needed just three plays to travel 76 yards on its next possession, with Rutherford again finding Fitzgerald in solo coverage down the sideline. Cornerback Ray Coley of Kent State (1-1) was in position to make the tackle at about the 30, but Fitzgerald used an inside-out move to dodge him and ran untouched into the end zone.
Brandon Miree added a 2-yard scoring run in the third quarter during a 113-yard night, his fourth consecutive 100-yard game.
Pittsburgh, which opens with three consecutive games against Mid-American Conference teams before playing at Texas A&M on Sept. 27, is 7-0 in season openers under Harris. The Panthers are starting a season in the Top 10 for the first time since 1984.
Kent State, never getting anything going against a defense that allowed a Big East-low 17.8 points per game last season, lost for the 45th time in its last 58 games.
Joshua Cribbs threw for 86 yards and ran for 43 a week after totaling 397 yards in a 41-38 victory at Akron.
"They've got a lot of speed on defense," Cribbs said. "It's just the kind of defense you would expect them to have."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||2-17||5-16|
|4th Down Conversions||1-2||0-1|
|FG||9:19||TRAVIS MAYLE 41 YD FG|
Drive info: 15 plays, 56 yards.
|TD||14:00||PRINCELL BROCKENBROUGH 20 YD PASS FROM ROD RUTHERFORD (DAVID ABDUL KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 20 yards.
|TD||11:48||LARRY FITZGERALD 7 YD PASS FROM ROD RUTHERFORD (DAVID ABDUL KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||4:35||LARRY FITZGERALD 11 YD PASS FROM ROD RUTHERFORD (DAVID ABDUL KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 34 yards.
|TD||1:57||LARRY FITZGERALD 54 YD PASS FROM ROD RUTHERFORD (DAVID ABDUL KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 76 yards.
|TD||6:52||BRANDON MIREE 2 YD RUN (DAVID ABDUL KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 67 yards.
|FG||9:36||DAVID ABDUL 22 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 35 yards.
|FG||3:54||DAVID ABDUL 47 YD FG|
Drive info: 7 plays, 23 yards.